Letter: Adjust CNA education options to solve staffing shortages

Posted 12/4/20

The solutions outlined to address substitute teacher shortages printed in the Oct. 9, Providence Journal, “50 Graduates of Fast-Track Training Substitute Teacher Program Will …

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Letter: Adjust CNA education options to solve staffing shortages

Posted

The solutions outlined to address substitute teacher shortages printed in the Oct. 9, Providence Journal, “50 Graduates of Fast-Track Training Substitute Teacher Program Will Help Address Urgent Need,” by Linda Borg, contrasts sharply with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s inadequate prioritization to fast-track training to meet the critical and continuing certified nurse assistant shortages in nursing homes and home care. 

If Rhode Island can fast-track substitute teachers in weeks to months to teach our young, why don’t we also make it a priority to address staffing shortages to meet the needs of the aged?

I have been advocating viable solutions regarding CNA staffing shortages since 2015 to Gov. Raimondo, the editor at the Providence Journal and Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. 

For those who find it difficult to attend in-person CNA courses (pandemic-issues, parenting, employment, time, money, and energy), there are many good reasons to allow much of the CNA course to be taken online. 

Other states, such as Colorado, have adjusted to using distance learning, but Rhode Island has not. Rhode Island’s lack of flexibility adds to staffing shortages. By allowing part of the CNA course to be taken online, learning styles and work/lifestyle schedules allow a person to do so.

States have the power to adjust the regulations, and Medicare addressed the option of distance learning for CNA education so the states are not obstructed by federal regulations. The Rhode Island Department of Health must amend its regulations to follow suit.

The hands-on skills portion of the CNA course could still be performed in-person, since watching someone else perform a skill is not the same as performing a skill yourself. In addition, governmental and education administration adjustment is needed so the CNA course is available at all public universities and colleges for college credit.

If we address the barriers to providing college credit, as Cape Cod Community College has, then we are true to the goals of educational equity, fairness, and diversity for all ages and all people.

Education is more than acquiring knowledge. Education is cultivating a well-adjusted, well-educated, well-prepared populace to take on the challenges of real-life and not just imparting the knowledge mandatory to graduate from, for instance, computer science, education, or business.

Rhode Island has adjusted by allowing Rhode Island nursing students who completed one clinical nursing, hands-on (clinical) experience to get a free, automatic CNA license in early 2020. However, it must be remembered that nursing students’ priority is to attend college, not work full-time to fill staffing shortages. Regardless, there is a way that students can be incentivized to learn the skills necessary to care for others, in a CNA class: give college students the option of taking a CNA training class for elective credit.

Perhaps the enticement of for-credit CNA classes may introduce a whole new subset of individuals to the possibility of actually working in the field, perhaps part-time in order to defray school costs.

We must “Tear Down The Walls" that block college students of all majors from taking the CNA course for college credit and make change a priority. Rhode Island can learn from models other states have successfully implemented. Adjustment is long overdue.

Would you take a course for which you received no college credit when your goal is to earn credits and graduate? 

Kathleen Gainor, RN., MSN

Ms. Gainor has a master’s degree in Nursing with a specialty in Gerontological Nursing from Boston College. She is founder and past director of the National Association of Certified Nursing Assistants and Editor of “Renaissance: Journal of the National Certified Nursing Assistant Association.

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