Hiring qualified certified nurse aides and keeping them is an ongoing challenge for skilled nursing facilities. It can get frustrating when you recruit, hire, and onboard a new nurse aide and then have to start the process all over when another one leaves. If this sounds all too familiar, you may welcome an alternative.
Leaders who are hungry for a new approach should consider creating your own in-house nurse aide training program. In a recent Relias webinar, presenters Sherry Johnson, Director of Strategic Content Development at Relias, and Vince Baiera, Principal of the Straightaway business at Relias, provided advice on navigating the regulatory hurdles and common pitfalls when starting up your own program.
Unfortunately, many organizations across the country are struggling with nurse aide recruitment and turnover frustrations. “You are not alone,” Baiera says. Plus, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an 8% growth rate between 2019 and 2029 for the job sector that includes nursing assistants.
Create Your Own Nurse Aide Training Program
If your organization wants to explore building a new nurse aide training program, Relias’ Straightaway team advises keeping in mind these seven strategic steps:
- Review your state’s training requirements carefully.
- Identify your leadership and instruction team.
- Match the format and hours of your program to your state’s requirements.
- Craft your curriculum to adhere to content required in your state’s regulations.
- Evaluate your potential classroom spaces and training resources.
- Set your training program policies.
- Brainstorm student recruitment strategies.
Of course, you want your training to be thorough and effective. But there’s much more to crafting a successful program. State approval must be received before starting any class, so knowing how to plan your program strategically is vital.
To avoid application kickbacks from your state regulatory board, Johnson has some sage advice.
1. Review State Requirements
When considering whether to start your own nurse aide training program, look first at your state’s regulatory requirements. The federal requirement is a minimum of 75 clock hours of training, Johnson says, which includes 16 hours of supervised practical training in the clinical setting.
Your state might go beyond those minimums and add tasks, skills, and didactic information needed for program approval. You must follow your state’s requirements for total training hours and hours in each training format.
2. Identify Your Instruction Team
To shepherd the planning and implementation of your training program, you will need to identify a program director and lead instructor.
Good candidates for the program director role might be your director of nursing or your staff development director. But your director of nursing should not be the primary instructor, Johnson advises. Having the director of nursing pulled away from core duties for extended training time would be risky.
The lead instructor must have all the appropriate qualifications. Nurse educators need two years of nursing experience with one of those years in long-term care. They also must have experience teaching nurse aides or have taken classes in adult learning theory. Some states require a train-the-trainer course first.
State officials will send applications back for insufficient instructor credentials. If the resume you send in does not clearly match the requirements, Johnson says, “you will get a kickback.” The requirements are explicitly stated, she notes, so follow them.
3. Match the Format and Hours
When planning your own training program, look at the specific breakdown of hours in your state’s nurse aide certification training requirements. For example, 100 hours of required training might consist of 60 hours of classroom and skills lab training and 40 hours of hands-on supervised resident care in a skilled nursing facility.
With COVID-19 creating the need for training adaptations to promote participant safety, Johnson notes, many states are allowing a hybrid of online for the didactic portion and in-person for skills training and lab work.
4. Craft Your Curriculum Strategically
Just as hours vary by state, so do curriculum requirements. Every state has minimum curriculum guidelines, and some states get specific about what you will need to include. You may need to create a crosswalk to map how what you plan to teach connects with the specific state requirements.
As you create your curriculum, think carefully about the knowledge and skills that will set your new nurse aides up for success. Competent care is a must. Beyond that, when nurse aides can hit the floor well-prepared and confident, they are more likely to stay in their roles longer.
5. Evaluate the Space and Resources Needed for Instruction
While planning, you will need to evaluate whether you have the space to offer on-site training. When looking at your facility’s space, ensure that the instruction space is open, welcoming, and conducive to learning. You need a quiet environment that supports concentration and learning.
Just as you need space that is separate from patient care, you also need separate training supplies and equipment. Stocking the proper resources for lab skill instruction is vital. “You can’t pull from patient care and resident care supplies,” Johnson says. “Don’t use those as a backup.”
6. Formulate Your Training Program Policies
Another key step is determining training program policies for students and instructors. Once again, you will need to check your state requirements and meet those — at a minimum.
Elements to consider include student and instructor attendance, options for makeup hours, grading criteria, and any fees involved.
7. Plan Student Recruitment Strategies
Another key to planning your training program is nurse aide student recruitment. Think about how you intend to find and evaluate prospective students. “We’re hunting the best talent to come into our communities and work,” Baiera notes.
Of course, you want students who are academically ready for the training and can articulate a clear understanding of the role’s expectations. You also want to find out if they have a caring background.
Some facilities ask current nursing assistants to interview prospective students. That practice can generate employee referrals as well. When staff members refer people they know, Johnson says, they tend to bring in good quality candidates.
“That’s been highly effective both in getting good candidates into your class and in keeping them afterward,” she says. “Those facilities that have done that have been super-successful.”
Take Early Steps To Retain Nurse Aides
Thinking beyond the training program, you will want to find ways to retain your new nurse aides. Some organizations hire students for other roles, such as hospitality aides, during training. That way, students know other staff members and feel part of the team. Those efforts can pay off in terms of nurse aide retention.
As students gain certification and join your nurse aide team, share information about career development and tuition reimbursement. With continuing education, aides might explore specialty nursing assistant areas such as wound care, restorative care, or dementia care, Johnson notes.
Let them know about career ladders available as nursing assistants and if they pursue other nursing degrees. “This is where you can grow your own people internally, really develop them,” Baiera says.
By planning all elements of your program strategically and thoroughly, you will gain support for nurse aide training and engagement across the organization. When you build commitment from all leaders and staff, you ensure long-term program success.