Mobilizing for rapid CNA training

Soldiers from the Minnesota National Guard’s Task Force Covid have trained over the past week at St. Cloud Technical and Community College and at other public two-year colleges to become certified nursing assistants. (Photo: SCTCC)

Staff shortages at long-term care facilities and healthcare centers in Minnesota have prompted Gov. Tim Walz to activate the Minnesota National Guard to form skilled-nursing response teams. Sixteen colleges in the state have responded quickly to get more than 400 soldiers trained as certified nursing assistants (CNAs).

“Our long-term care facilities are facing an all-hands-on-deck moment, and that’s why we are taking unprecedented action to support skilled nursing workers, residents, and patients,” Walz said in a statement.

There are 23,000 open long-term caregiver positions across Minnesota.

St. Cloud Technical & Community College’s (SCTCC) customized training team quickly organized a nine-day training for Guard members that included both online lectures and hands-on labs. The average completion of the CNA program at SCTCC takes seven to eight weeks to complete.

The Guard members learned how to provide oral and hygiene care, take patients’ vitals, provide mobility assistance, and proper methods of medical documentation.

“It’s a bootcamp with nine-hour days,” said Diane Andersen-Sibley, a nursing assistant instructor at SCTCC. “We need to get them to at least 75 hours because that is the federal regulation.”

The training took place Nov. 27 through Dec. 5. Colleges got word on Nov. 19 that they may be asked to provide training.

At Lake Superior College, instructors and campus leaders worked over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to help prepare for and begin this unique and intensive training.

Northland Community and Technical College also rushed to create a crash course for Minnesota National Guard members. Nineteen guardsmen arrived for training on Nov. 27 and put in 11-hour days that weekend in the classroom.

“That’s all on our faculty, they have been fantastic,” Jodi Stauss, dean of Northland’s health, public services and technical programs, said in a Grand Forks Herald article. “They were able to take things they’ve already done and really condense and combine it.”

At the end of the training, the soldiers must take and pass a written test as well as a hands-on skills test. Passing these tests will place them on the Minnesota Nursing Assistant Registry, which allows them to work at any long-term care facility in the state and qualifies them to continue working as CNAs in their civilian lives.

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