By Representative LaKeshia Myers
It is no secret that the United States faces a nursing shortage. There is a desperate need for both registered nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNA). According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, several Wisconsin hospitals and other skilled nursing facilities are operating with dozens of vacant positions.
The WHA also stated Wisconsin’s over 65 population is expected to double by the year 2030, which means nurses and nursing assistants will continue to be a critical need profession.
Despite the large demand for nursing assistants, wages remain low. Wisconsin Technical Colleges showed nursing assistant as number one in their ‘Jobs in Demand Listing’ for 2018. It also showed the median starting salary of $26,752.
This week, I affirmed my support for an assembly bill that would bring Wisconsin’s CNA requirements in line with the federal requirement. Currently, CNA candidates must complete 120 classroom hours with 32 clinical hours.
Under the proposed legislation, candidates would need to only complete 75 classroom hours with 15 clinical hours. While some of my colleagues believe changing the requirements would reduce quality of CNAs, I think the opposite. Bringing Wisconsin in line with the federal mandate would generate interest in the profession. It would also lessen the likelihood of CNA candidates incurring more student debt at technical colleges.
Furthermore, I also believe we can tackle the issue of CNA pay. I support Representative Lisa Subeck’s package of bills dubbed the “CNA Pay Act.” These three bills would create a tax credit for CNAs, provide additional funding for CNA education, and increase the Medicaid reimbursement which would directly impact CNA pay.
I represent many healthcare professionals in my district. I have carefully thought about how we can improve the lot for certified nursing assistants and also grow the field. Nursing assistants are vital to the healthcare profession and they deserve the respect and parity to thrive in their profession.