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In an effort to help with staffing shortages at long-term care facilities, Minnesota is launching an effort to recruit and train 1,000 nursing assistants by the end of January. 

Gov. Tim Walz on Monday announced the new initiative, which is a partnership between the state, Minnesota State colleges and long-term care providers. 

The governor hopes to use $3.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan money so qualifying Minnesotans won't have to pay for the certified nursing assistant (CNA) courses. This will help remove the financial barrier some face that prevents them from becoming a CNA. 

“Our long-term care facilities are relying on a new generation of certified nursing assistants to provide quality care to their patients. By working with communities, colleges, and care providers around Minnesota, we will recruit and train these new CNAs and ensure we have the staff we need in long-term care,” said Walz.

"Our goal is to train 1,000 CNAs in two months to bolster staffing and provide necessary care to Minnesota patients during our COVID-19 response. But not only that: through this training program we can help maintain a stable long-term care workforce for years to come.”

This program will be modeled after what the state is already doing to train and deploy 400 Minnesota National Guard members to help at long-term care facilities that are severely understaffed. Currently, National Guard members are receiving training at 16 colleges within the Minnesota State system. 

SPONSORED: The College of St. Scholastica has nursing degree programs with and without prerequisites

Walz noted on Monday the first National Guard "response teams" totaling 50 people are being deployed to provide staffing at three long-term care facilities: North Ridge Health and Rehab in New Hope, Mille Lacs Health System Long Term Care in Onamia, and PioneerCare in Fergus Falls. 

The "response teams" will begin providing care on Tuesday, with more long-term sites expected to receive staffing help from the National Guard later this week, Walz said. 

The Minnesota Office of Higher Education is convening a work group to implement this new recruiting and training program, which will offer resources and support to applicants, including covering costs for tuition, fees and materials, as well as transportation and technology needs.

This program will also provide up to 10 high schools with money for lab equipment needed to offer nursing assistant training classes on site. 

Nursing assistants are the sixth-highest in-demand job in Minnesota, and the need for them has been exacerbated by the pandemic, the governor's office said. 

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The current pipeline of CNA students is not poised to meet the current demand, the state says. Of the 11,500 students enrolled in CNA programs between 2017-2020, only 5,100 have completed a CNA credential. And of the remaining students, only 1,500 were still enrolled in a CNA program in the fall of 2020.

The Legislative COVID-19 Response Commission will review the governor's request to use American Rescue Plan money to pay for this CNA program.

This plan is part of the governor's approach to support hospitals and long-term car facilities dealing with staffing shortages and spiking COVID-19 cases. Over the past several weeks, the state has secured federal emergency staffing at hospitals and has launched four alternate care sites for non-critical hospital patients to keep hospital space open for those sick with COVID-19.

Walz announced Monday that a fourth alternate care site will open this week at Benedictine Living Community-Regina in Hastings, which will be able to accept 17 patients from Twin Cities area hospitals. 

The other alternate care sites providing transitional care to patients are Cerenity Marian in St. Paul (27 beds), Good Samaritan Society – Bethany in Brainerd (34 beds) and Benedictine St. Gertrude's in Shakopee (27 beds). 

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