How Mission Health’s CNA Training Program Reduced Agency Use by 50%
Some state-led operators and initiatives have gone beyond stop-gap measures to address staffing shortages, taking pauses in Covid surges to create long-term solutions to meet future skilled nursing needs.
Minnesota, for its part, exceeded its goal of recruiting 1,000 certified practical nurses (CNAs) in the state.
The Next Generation of Nursing Assistant initiative has received $6.7 million to continue the program in Minnesota, with an additional $13.3 million proposed for the 2024-25 state budget.
As of this month, 1,278 Minnesotans have participated in the program; 940 are enrolled in free training courses and 338 high school students have accessed training through their school district, with the state covering the certification exam costs.
Mission Health Communities’ in-house Certified Practical Nurse (CNA) program will have 400 graduates within a month of its launch in summer 2021, and a retention rate of 92%.
The Florida-based operator has also seen a 50% reduction in CNA agency usage since the program launched.
Mission Health plans to expand the program to other states and hopefully have about 750 graduates by the end of the year, according to Cheri Kauset, vice president of business development at Mission Health.
“We realized that with regulation continuing to intensify during the pandemic, our strategy really needed to be updated as to where we find staff and how do we attract and retain staff,” Kauset said. at Skilled Nursing News.
The program is currently operational in three states: Kansas, Tennessee and Georgia. Minnesota and Wisconsin are next on the list for expansion, according to Kauset.
Mission Health operates 47 skilled nursing, senior living, assisted living and short-term rehabilitation facilities in nine states.
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Mission Health created an education team whose first task was to work with state officials to create a curriculum that complied with regulations and guidelines, Kauset said, and at the same time hire recruiters to fill classes.
Students were paid to learn, she added, as they were brought in for a four-week course and then upon graduation they got a pay rise.
Host assistants, or students in the program, are paid $15 per hour; graduates are paid about $2 more per hour depending on what state they are in, Kauset added.
About 95% of its hospitality assistants have graduated to become CNAs so far.
“They were able to work as hospitality assistants, really get a feel for the job before they embarked on their studies,” Kauset said. “It was actually something that worked really well. People could see, ‘absolutely that’s fine with me, it’s something I want to do, I know it’s going to be hard work, rewarding work but hard work.” We had better retention because of that.
Once they graduate from CNA, they are placed with a mentor for six months to a year to help them grow in their new role.
Mentors are also paid, around $250 at certain program intervals.
Staffing strategy for the future
Mission Health decided to focus on CNAs first as a strategy, seeing how difficult it was to attract new nurses to the nursing home sector.
“When you don’t have CPNs, nurses do things that need to be done,” Kauset explained. “Our approach was that if we want to give our nurses who have been so good to us throughout the pandemic a break, we need to shore up our CNA base. That’s how it all started.
The operator has started preliminary discussions about creating its own pool of staff, mainly for traveling nurses.
Mission Health has invested more than $1 million in employee recruitment and retention efforts, hiring temporary practical nurses (TNAs) under a federal program developed during the pandemic and contingent on the emergency of public health (PHE). This is a distinct way to expedite CNA certification.
The crucial difference is the availability of educators, Kauset said.
“You could be a TNA for a very long time, waiting for an educator to come in and it’s been approved by the state to be able to endorse their skills,” she added.
The operator is looking to partner with community colleges to create more skilled positions like licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and certified medication aides (CMAs), Kauset said.
Kansas and Georgia are two states that distinguish between CNAs and CMAs – the special post does everything a CNA does, but they also have the authority to dispense medication to residents.
“It’s a good leap for NACs looking for a quick career path. They could follow it all the way from CNA to CMA to LPN,” Kauset said.
Mission Health partners with virtual college Capella University for CMA certification.