caregiver with resident

Prospective certified nurse aide candidates in Pennsylvania are coming up against long wait times to schedule licensing testing and are giving up on employment in healthcare, state lawmakers were told at a public hearing Tuesday.

The heart of the matter before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee centered on a state contract with Credentia as the sole administrator of the test, the Morning Call reported. According to the media outlet, witnesses said that the company employs only 16 proctors, and “prospective CNAs have reported waiting months for an exam date, driving hundreds of miles and then arriving to find it was canceled.”

During the pandemic, federal and state regulatory and statutory provisions were waived by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) to assist in the hiring of temporary nurse aides, or TNAs, in long-term care facilities. In 2020, the state legislature passed a law that allowed TNAs hired during the COVID-19 pandemic to be placed on the state’s certified nurse aide registry and be eligible for permanent employment at long-term care facilities. TNAs can take an online exam and work in long-term care while they prepare for the CNA exam.

According to the Morning Call, Zach Shamberg, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, testified Tuesday that TNAs didn’t solve the staffing shortages. When the federal government eliminates the waiver allowing TNAs on Oct. 6, the situation will become much worse, he told the committee.

Jennifer Mankowski, executive vice president of Credentia’s program management and development, blamed the pandemic for the issues that have arisen in testing CNA candidates. Testing was paused for months at the start of the pandemic, she said, and when it resumed, it was difficult to find registered nurses to proctor the exams. Many applicants for the proctoring positions expect double or triple the salary Credentia is willing to offer, she said, according to the media outlet.

Chairperson Sen. Michele Brooks (R) suggested that the state pursue legal action against the company, the Morning Call wrote.

“It’s time to start making them meet the contract as well as see if we can assign any type of penalties,” Brooks said.