The long-term care industry depends hugely on the services of "nursing assistants," also known as NAs, who provide basic but important care for residents or patients under the direction of nursing staff (who, in turn, are usually Licensed Practical Nurses or Registered Nurses). As the U.S.Department of Labor describes, NAs typically perform duties such as changing linens, feeding, bathing, dressing, and grooming of individuals. They may also transfer or transport residents and patients. Employers may use other job titles for NAs, such as nursing care attendants, nursing aides, and nursing attendants. However, the Department of Labor makes a distinction between NAs and other key players in long-term care, including "home health aides," "orderlies," "personal care aides" and "psychiatric aides."
According to DOL statistics, the top employers of NAs include skilled nursing facilities (37% of NAs), continuing care retirement communities and assisted living facilities (together employing some 18% of NAs), and hospitals and home care agencies, which each employ about 6% of the NA workforce.
For many years, states have offered licensing for nursing assistants. The designation of CNA or "certified nursing assistant" meant that the nursing assistant had satisfied a minimum educational standard and had successfully passed a state exam. As another key protection for vulnerable consumers, CNAs had to pass background checks, involving fingerprints and criminal history searches.
In Arizona, however, now I'm hearing a new label: LNAs or Licensed Nursing Assistants. The Arizona Board of Nursing continues to license CNAs, but now it is offers the designation of Licensed Nursing Assistants. What's the difference? Frankly, not much, at least in terms of skill levels. Then why the change?
In Arizona, CNAs and LNAs have the same educational requirements, and must pass the same test and satisfy the same work credits. But, as of July 1, 2016, individuals seeking the LNA designation will be required to pay the state a fee to cover their mandatory background checks, including fingerprinting. CNAs, however, will no longer be required to undergo background checks or fingerprinting.
What is this about? Arizona is trying to save money. It seems that state and federal laws prohibit state authorities from mandating that CNA candidates cover the cost for their own background checks. In other words, if the candidate showed financial need in the application process, the state was required to pick up the costs for any background checks. Let's remember that the average wages of CNAs are relatively low -- the national mean is less than $30,000 per year. Presumably that is the reason behind the older laws limiting how much states can charge CNA applicants for their own background checks. By creating a new designation, LNA, Arizona takes the position it avoids the federal restriction.
But, what about the public? Will the public understand that CNAs licensed after July 1, 2016 will not be subject to fingerprinting and background checks? Responsible employers would, presumably, require such checks or limit their hires to LNAs. At least, let's hope so.
I also learned that apparently Arizona does not require "continuing" education for either CNAs or LNAs. (Again, you would hope that responsible employers would either provide or require such education.) Arizona used to require a minimum of 120 hours every 2 years of what are, in essence, "job credits" -- i.e., proof of employment in an NA position -- to maintain the CNA license. Recently, however, Arizona diluted that requirement to just 8 hours every two years for both CNAs and LNAs.
Arizona does have a useful website where current or prospective employers, including families, can check the licensing status of CNAs or LNAs. The website is searchable by name or license number, and shows whether an applicant has failed the entrance exam, or has withdrawn an application or lost the license.
Are other states creating this LNA designation as a "workaround" (loophole?) for financing background checks for CNAs? Let us know!
August 26, 2016 in Consumer Information, Crimes, Current Affairs, Elder Abuse/Guardianship/Conservatorship, Ethical Issues, Federal Statutes/Regulations, Health Care/Long Term Care, State Statutes/Regulations | Permalink
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