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Regulatory changes proposed by the Virginia Board of Nursing are aimed at removing barriers to training and improving the hiring process for certified nurse aides in the commonwealth. If approved, CNAs would be able to meet their training requirements in assisted living communities.

The state nursing board is recommending amendments to regulations governing Virginia’s nurse aide education programs, including allowing training to occur outside of a nursing home facility that is focused on geriatric care, updating requirements for instructors and allowing personnel from other health professions to supplement the primary instruction.

According to the board, the amendments are meant to ensure that nurse aide programs are able to continue to educate students through appropriate clinical training. Nurse aide education programs struggled during the pandemic to place students in nursing homes. Programs also faced difficulties obtaining and retaining qualified instructors. 

Judy Hackler, executive director of the Virginia Assisted Living Association, told McKnight’s Senior Living that the regulatory change is a permanent solution to a temporary waiver the commonwealth authorized early in the pandemic to remove restrictions on training locations for the clinical hours CNAs need outside of a geriatric long-term care facility.

“This waiver was successful and allowed for assisted living communities and other healthcare facilities to train additional CNAs to help with providing continued resident care with permanent staff members,” Hackler said. “Having additional training facilities for CNAs will help to alleviate overall workforce shortages existing for assisted living communities and other healthcare providers.”

In survey results released in December by the Virginia Health Care Association / Virginia Center for Assisted Living, 86% of the state’s assisted living communities and nursing facilities said that their workforce situations had worsened from 2020 to 2022. Approximately 93% of facilities reported vacancies for CNAs and direct caregivers.

Dana Parsons, LeadingAge Virginia vice president, told McKnight’s Senior Living that its members have felt the impact of the workforce shortage first-hand and believe this initiative will help fill a significant need. She said “unnecessary regulatory burdens” previously in place were among the factors causing the workforce crisis, but removing restrictions on training locations for clinical training hours for CNAs helped members in the early part of the pandemic.

“This initiative is a step in the right direction to bring more, qualified care to those our members serve,” Parsons said. “We encourage nurse aides to consider the wide array of education available within aging services in congruence with this regulation. Nurse aides play an integral role in aging services, and we are happy to be a champion of their success.”

The nursing board is taking comments through March 1 on a fast-track regulation that would become effective March 16.

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) said in a statement the changes will positively affect the available supply of potential instructors, create potential for increased size of nurse aide programs and cultivate flexible options for teaching facilities.

Marybeth Showalter, Commonwealth Senior Living vice president of associate learning, training and retention, called the change a “step in the right direction.” 

“As an HR professional in the senior living space, I strongly support the proposed changes to allow more Virginia residents to obtain their CNA training through alternative previously unavailable methods,” Showalter testified at a regulatory meeting. “As an employer, we have a critical interest in addressing staffing and skills. We can produce passionate employees who care about their work and the people they serve. We can also provide career growth and a stable industry where people can thrive.”