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Temporary health care workers encouraged to get certification

Wednesday, July 6, 2022

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Iowans went above and beyond to become temporary nurse aides in health care facilities across the state. These vital emergency health care workers provided much-needed care and support for some of Iowa’s most vulnerable populations.

Today, temporary nurse aides, commonly known as TNAs, are facing a deadline. They must become certified in order to continue their care. Without certification, many facilities may face staffing concerns in an already-stretched job market.

A blanket emergency waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which allowed TNAs to provide support during the pandemic, has expired, and temporary workers must now complete a certified nursing assistant (CNA) course and testing by Oct. 6 in order to continue working in their current facilities.

“The need for health care workers remains high,” said Jane Bradley, administrative consultant for the Iowa Department of Education. “The TNAs have filled an important gap in employment for facilities, especially in rural areas. To give up the workforce filled by TNAs would create a hardship.”

In response, community colleges across the state are offering CNA courses for temporary workers who need to complete the requirement. Approved CNA trainings require 75 hours of instruction and the successful completion of the state skills and competency testing, and Iowa community colleges are offering several scheduling options for TNAs looking for certification.

“There is a fast-track class that can be completed in three weeks, or you can try a full semester timeline of six to eight weeks of training,” said Tammy Steinwandt, health-care coordinator for continuing education at Des Moines Area Community College. “We offer a variety of times, classes and dates for individuals to become certified.”

As an added incentive, many TNAs are able to enroll in the CNA course and testing at no cost to them.

“This is actually a great time to be a student,” Steinwandt said. “Since there is a high need for workers in this high-demand field, there are a lot of funding opportunities.”

To help retain their workforce, employers often help pay for temporary workers to upskill to CNAs. Students may also qualify for Gap Tuition Assistance or the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER II) fund, which both provide funding support for students training in an in-demand job field. Anything from tuition, direct training costs, required books and equipment and other fees can be covered by Gap Tuition Assistance or GEER II funding. These covered costs can reduce the financial barriers for TNAs and can make a world of difference in an individual’s career trajectory.

“The available funding opportunities for this training could provide a start for a lifelong career,” said Janet Wuebker, adult education health coordinator at Southwestern Community College. “It could be the first step towards a nursing program, medical program or a long career in a health care setting.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity to bridge to further education and learn how to do their trade better.”

The hundreds of temporary nurse aides provided critical assistance to Iowans during the pandemic. Steinwandt and Wuebker are grateful for their service and hope they stay in the health care workforce for years to come.

“The TNAs were the fuel that kept these places going,” Steinwandt said. “They were thrown into this with little to no training. It’s important for them to have the opportunity to take a course to learn, excel and take care of their residents even better.”

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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on October 03, 2022 at 10:29am.