The Nurses CARE Act Aims at Easing the Shortage of Nurses in Long-Term Care Facilities

McKnight’s Senior Living, discusses the impact of bipartisan legislation on the floor of the House of Representatives. The legislation aims at improving the pipeline of workers for senior living and care operators, by increasing their hiring flexibility and creating new pathways for long-term employment opportunities in senior living and care. 

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Fred Keller [R-PA-12] and was introduced on 15 January 2021. It is currently within the House of Representatives Ways and Means; and Energy and Commerce committees. Keller and co-sponsor, Rep. Susan Wild [D-PA-7], discussed the bill, known as the Nurses CARE Act in a virtual conference held in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Health Care Association. 

Long-term care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted living facilities, often suffer from staffing shortages. The bill strives to solve this problem by allowing temporary nurses to keep their certification after the pandemic-related emergency declaration is over. In this way, long-term care facilities will be able to maintain healthy staff levels. 

Last fall, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania, signed into law a bill that was designed to ease supply shortages in the staffing of long-term care facilities in Pennsylvania, while also creating a permanent pathway for employment in the industry. The bill, Senate Bill 1268, was sponsored by Sen. Judy Ward (R-Hollidaysburg), who chairs the state Senate’s Aging and Youth Committee. She is a former nurse and so understands the challenges of the industry. The bill placed temporary nurses hired during the pandemic, on the state’s Certified Nurse Aide Registry. This made them eligible for long-term employment in long-term care facilities. 

Since then, the bill has resulted in nearly 3,000 Pennsylvanians completing the nurses’ training program, with hundreds being hired by long-term care facilities. The bill has been a life-saver for patients in long-term care facilities. It’s clear that shortages of workers in long-term care facilities can only result in suboptimal healthcare provision. 

The Nurses CARE Act seeks to ward off the threat of critical shortages by giving states the ability to use on-the-job experience in lieu of courses undertaken for certification. 

This is also a worthy reward for the many people who heard the call to assist their communities and offered their services to long-term care facilities, such as adult day care centers. These people have learnt a lot during the greatest pandemic of recent times.

The Nurse CARE Act shows the importance of on-the-job experience, while also asking nurses to undertake the necessary competency courses that every nurse needs. The competency courses can be done online, and are up to the same standards as the courses offered to nurses as part of normal training. It has the benefit of being flexible enough that it will serve as a pathway for future nurses who start off in the industry with on-the-job experience. 

Senate Bill 1268 required temporary nurses to undergo a training course lasting eight hours, as well as getting 80 hours of on-the-job experience at a long-term care facility. Pennsylvania has provided a wonderful model for the rest of the country to follow. A model which will do a lot to ease the shortages in long-term care facilities.

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Christophe Rude

Christophe Rude

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