Personal care aides' plea to Congress: We need guidance, mandated training standards

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Personal care aides want states to set credentialing standards that are akin to those for home care aides and certified nursing aides. Currently, there are no federally mandated standards for PCAs, an industry advocate said at a Senate briefing Monday in Washington.

Twenty-three states have no training requirements of any kind for at least one publicly funded personal assistance program, said Dorie Seavey, Ph.D., director of policy research for the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI). Only 18% of states require PCA certification and just 35% have a training-hours requirement, she added.

“States need strong federal guidance to encourage them to adopt a ‘Gold Standard' for PCA training,” she said at the briefing, which was co-sponsored by the Special Committee on Aging and the Health, Education, and Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee. “Requiring that PCAs are adequately trained in every state, and uniformly trained from program to program within states, allows PCAs to work in multiple long-term care programs and settings, which helps to prepare our nation to build the workforce it needs to ensure quality care for consumers.”

Her institute estimates that 1.5 million PCAs currently provide support to seniors and individuals with disabilities. That number is projected to pass 2 million by the end of the decade.

PHI recommends that federal and state governments invest in, among other things, comprehensive federal training standards, as well as a credentialing process for PCAs that would be similar to those for home and certified nursing aides.

The briefing also included reports on the Personal and Home Care Aide State Training Program (PHCAST), a three-year federal demonstration project under the Affordable Care Act to establish statewide competency-based curricula and credentialing standards for PCAs.