Minnesota to train, deploy 1,000 new certified nursing assistants for long-term care

(ABC 6 News) – Governor Tim Walz announced a new initiative to recruit, train, and deploy at least 1,000 new certified nursing assistants for Minnesota long-term care facilities experiencing staffing shortages by the end of January.

The effort is a partnership between state government, colleges, and long-term care providers led by the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. It will recruit qualified Minnesotans and enroll them in certification courses at Minnesota State campuses.

Once trained, the CNAs will be eligible for employment at Minnesota long-term care facilities that are facing severe staffing shortages. Sixteen colleges within the Minnesota State system are currently training approximately 400 members of the National Guard for deployment as emergency temporary nursing assistants in those facilities, a model this initiative will replicate.

The Walz-Flanagan Administration is aiming to use federal American Rescue Plan funding to pay for qualifying expenses associated with CNA courses (i.e. tuition, fees, books, technology needs, test fees) to ensure these courses are available at no-cost to students.

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education is convening a work group of state agencies, higher education institutions, and long-term care providers to implement the recruiting and training program. The initiative will offer resources and support to those pursuing a CNA credential from the first day of class to the first day on the job. This includes covering costs for tuition, fees, and materials. Additional investments will support transportation and technology needs for students. The program will also provide up to 10 high schools with funds for lab equipment necessary to offer nursing assistant training classes on site.

The Walz-Flanagan Administration plans to use $3.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding to pay for the CNA program. The Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission will review this request.

According to data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, nursing assistants are the sixth highest in-demand job in the state. This need has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, and the current pipeline of students pursing a CNA credential is not poised to meet the demand.

Statewide enrollment data shows that of the over 11,500 students enrolled in CNA programs between 2017 and 2020, only 5,100 of them completed a CNA credential. Of the remaining students, only 1,500 were still enrolled in a CNA program in fall 2020. Helping these students complete their program, and increasing the number of students pursuing a CNA credential, is critical for the state.

Governor Walz is implementing a multi-faceted action plan to support Minnesota hospitals and long-term care facilities deal with staffing shortages and a spike in COVID-19 cases.

Since October, Governor Walz has:

· Secured federal emergency staffing teams to support staff at three Minnesota hospitals;

· Worked with long-term care facilities to launch three alternative care sites to accept non-critical patients from hospitals. The sites – in Shakopee, Brainerd, and Saint Paul – have made 88 beds available for non-emergency patients, allowing hospitals to transfer patients and provide acute care to those who need it most;

· Activated 400 members of the Minnesota National Guard to serve as a skilled-nursing “response teams” that will support skilled-nursing facilities experiencing severe staffing shortages;

· Made $50 million in federal American Rescue Plan funding available for immediate emergency grants to long-term care facilities to hire and retain employees;

· Expanded the Emergency Staffing Pool so that short-term emergency temporary staff could be used to open up additional long-term care beds for patients ready to be discharged from a hospital; and

· Directed the Department of Human Services to free up capacity at state-operated long-term care facilities.