Black nurse caring for patient
Credit: Larry Williams & Associates/Getty Images

COVID-19 flexibilities on temporary nurse aide (TNA) certification requirements would be extended for 24 months after the public health emergency ends under a new federal proposal. 

The measure, called Building America’s Health Care Workforce Act, was introduced by Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Madeleine Dean (D-PA) and David B. McKinley (R-WV) late last week. 

It comes in response to federal regulators saying they will sunset a COVID-related waiver for TNAs June 7. That waiver has allowed facilities to employ the non-yet-certified aides for more than four months, even if they haven’t completed the necessary training and certification requirements. 

The original four-month deadline will be back in place if nothing else is done.

In addition to extending the waiver for 24 months following the PHE, the newly proposed measure also would allow TNAs to continue working in the role and apply their on-the-job experience toward the 75-hour federal training requirement to become a certified nursing assistant  

“My goal is to bring more qualified workers into senior care settings to ensure that our most vulnerable populations are receiving safe and quality care, while also providing workers an opportunity to further their professional development and earn higher wages,” Kentucky’s Guthrie said in a statement Thursday. 

Dean (D-PA) added that the measure will not only help address the workforce shortage in healthcare but it will also strengthen the sector and ensure that seniors receive the quality care they deserve. 

“Temporary nurse aides have played a critical role in caring for our seniors during the pandemic, and we can allow them to gain more firsthand experience,” Dean said. 

She added  “extending the waiver for TNAs to work in long term care facilities will give them the time to learn and grow in their careers and on their way to becoming [CNAs].”

The American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living had warned that states didn’t have the capacity to accommodate the training and testing needs for thousands of TNAs by the June deadline. The association on Friday said the measure would give TNAs the support they deserve while also preventing further job losses. 

“With many states unable to meet current training and testing demands, this legislation will help temporary aides continue to serve their residents, supporting seniors’ continuity of care,” said Holly Harmon, RN, AHCA/NCAL’s senior vice president of quality, regulatory and clinical services.