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Petryk column: Rep. Petryk takes steps to address Wisconsin's skilled nursing shortage

Warren Petryk

In recent years, as Wisconsin's economy has improved, we've seen a rising shortage of skilled care workers in long-term care facilities. The lack of Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) has been long felt in nursing homes and care facilities in western Wisconsin and across the state. CNAs provide essential day-to-day care to our retired veterans and our vulnerable aging population. This is a critical issue than I believe must be addressed immediately, which is why I've drafted legislation that will help address this concern.

Assembly Bill 76, which has broad bipartisan support in both the Assembly and Senate, will bring our CNA instructional requirements in line with federal standards and our neighbors Michigan, Minnesota and Iowa. Even better, this change comes at no cost to taxpayers and will enable already-licensed CNAs to move into Wisconsin and begin working without completing costly additional training.

Currently, federal law requires CNAs to have 75 hours of instructional training, including 16 hours of clinical training, to become certified, while Wisconsin requires 120 hours of classroom instruction and 32 hours of clinical training. This has placed our state at a significant disadvantage, especially when virtually all states bordering us only require the federal standard of 75 hours.

Opponents of the bill falsely state this change would prohibit Wisconsin from allowing CNA instructional programs to exceed federal requirements. This legislation would only prevent Wisconsin from requiring instructional programs to exceed federal requirements, giving programs the flexibility to develop curricula that meet or exceed federal requirements, rather than imposing additional burdens on prospective CNAs.

I'm a firm believer in working across the aisle to get things done. In today's environment, it's more important than ever that we continue to move forward on common-sense reforms to meet our workforce needs now and in the future.