New bill hopes to address CNA shortages throughout the state

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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) -- Certified Nursing Assistants, or CNAs, take care of the most vulnerable populations but the number of people taking these types of jobs is dropping. Pay is a big factor along with the number of training hours required. The amount of training needed in Wisconsin exceeds all other neighboring states.

"We have Minnesota, Iowa and Michigan who require a 75 hour training course for the CNA We however require 120 hours," explained Joey Pettis, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Director of Nurses Council.

All these states take the same basic test to become a CNA including here in Wisconsin. Major shortages of CNA's is resulting in the closure of long term care facilities across the state which leaves the aging population with little to no options. "We have a shrinking market and low pay due to a low reimbursement rate in medicare and medicaid," explained Pettis.

Pettis said they hit a road block with legislators when trying to ask for an increase in pay so they turned to training requirements to make it more equivalent with other states. For those coming to Wisconsin from neighboring states, they're required to go through training all over again, and pay for it on their own.

"They found out they didn't qualify to be a C.N.A. in Wisconsin and most of them would be nursing students. Now they are bartending and being waitresses because it is not worth their time or effort to go through the course again," said Pettis.

Lawmakers agree with reducing the training. Assembly Bill 76 aims at bringing the requirements in line with federal standards. "Putting us on a level field with other states and it is not like we are bringing in risky untrained people it is just that we had higher standards than other states," said Republican Representative Pat Snyder of the 85th Assembly District.

For the critics questioning the numbers of hours training, Pettis said,"When we look at quality there is no indication that increasing the CNA course from 75 to 120 has done anything for Wisconsin's quality. When you look at Minnesota they are actually rated higher than we are."

The bill will be on the State Assembly floor May 15.