David McKinley headshot
Rep. David McKinley (R-WV)

Federal legislation introduced Thursday would extend temporary pandemic-era allowances in an effort to build up the nursing home workforce.

The Building America’s Health Care Workforce Act was introduced by U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and David McKinley (R-WV).

In addition to allowing temporary nurse aides in nursing homes 24 months to fulfill training and testing requirements to become certified nursing assistants, the bill also would enable them to apply their on-the-job experience and training toward the 75-hour federal training requirement to become certified.

“Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, our country has lost more than 240,000 nursing home jobs. …My goal is to bring more qualified workers into senior care settings to ensure that our most vulnerable populations are receiving safe and quality care, while also providing workers an opportunity to further their professional development and earn higher wages,” Guthrie stated in a press release.

Janine Finck-Boyle, vice president of regulatory affairs at LeadingAge, told the McKnight’s Business Daily that the waiver program implemented in response to staffing shortages during the pandemic, has helped ensure that nursing home residents received the care they needed.

The waiver program, she noted, allowed workers in other sectors as well as retirees to transition into skilled nursing to fill gaps in the nursing home workforce.  

Holly Harmon, RN, senior vice president of quality, regulatory and clinical services for the American Health Care Association, said the proposal “recognizes the heroic efforts of temporary nurse aides and gives them a more realistic path to build a permanent career in long-term care.”

Staffing shortages are forcing many facilities to limit admissions or close altogether, she said, adding that she hopes the legislation will “prevent further devastating job losses.”