At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration relaxed training requirements for nurse’s aides, drastically reducing mandated training hours for certification.
New Nurse’s Aides Training Poses Safety Risks
Nursing homes around the country have experienced high rates of infections and deaths during the coronavirus pandemic. Due to age, existing health conditions, and compromised immune systems, nursing home residents are among the hardest-hit victims of COVID-19. In Illinois, 20,550 nursing home residents tested positive and 3,433 residents died by mid-June 2020.
In July, as COVID-19 cases were rising, the Trump administration relaxed standard training requirements for nurse’s aides. For many years, the long-time standard required by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for a nurse’s aide training course has been 75 hours of structured learning to obtain certification. President Trump reduced requirements from 75 hours to 8 hours of online training, making it possible to become certified as a nurse’s aide in just one day.
Due to ongoing nursing home problems with recruiting and keeping caregivers on staff, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) supports recent training changes. Just one day after changes were implemented, CMS introduced a free online eight-hour training course that doesn’t require students to download any course assignments or watch course videos to complete training. CMS is designating people who complete the 8-hour course as “temporary nurse’s aides.” They will be required to complete a full 75-hour training course for certification when the pandemic ends.
The Connecticut SEIU vice president, Jesse Martin, opposes an eight-hour training course for nurse’s aides, claiming that such limited training will make nursing home residents even more vulnerable to COVID-19. Nurse’s aides are often the main caretakers for residents who need around-the-clock care. With such limited training, Martin fears that basic resident care and infection control procedures will be compromised, leading to a rise in COVID-19 cases and lawsuits filed with nursing homes.
In the United States, two million people currently reside in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. As COVID-19 illnesses and deaths continue to rise, many nursing homes may face negligence and wrongful death lawsuits. In Illinois, 53% of nursing home deaths are linked to COVID-19. Nursing home residents are still considered at high-risk for COVID-19 infections and deaths. Nurse’s aides are on the front lines in implementing cleaning and disinfecting practices that prevent the spread of COVID-19.