Unlicensed assistive personnel (UAP) are individuals who are trained to assist registered nurses in patient care. Titles include patient care assistant, patient care technician, health care assistant, personal care assistant, and nurse aide. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (2019) identifies the 1.5 million individuals that provide basic personal care in hospitals and long-term care facilities as nursing assistants. Approximately 405,000 nursing assistants are employed in general medical and surgical hospitals. Nursing assistants are integral members of the health care team who show workforce sustainability. Their projected job growth is 8% from 2019 to 2029, faster than all other occupations (BLS, 2019). Nursing assistants, as part of the medical-surgical interprofessional team, are also front-line leaders in direct patient care. Recruiting high-caliber nursing assistants is vital to maintaining a dependable nursing workforce in caring for medical-surgical patients. A 3-week training program was implemented at an academic medical center to provide newly hired patient care assistant (PCA) interns the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to positively impact nursing quality indicators when caring for acute and chronically ill patients on medical-surgical units. PCAs are usually hired with the requirement that they hold the certified nursing assistant (CNA) credential. The PCA intern program is for those individuals without the CNA credential and are trained to become PCAs on various medical-surgical units. The training course is a system-based curriculum that focuses on the prevention of six nursing quality indicators that PCAs can directly impact in providing optimal patient care, including fall prevention, hospital-acquired pressure injury prevention, and prevention of catheter-associated urinary tract infections and central line-associated bloodstream infections. The 3-week training program consists of classroom, simulation, and clinical education. A written test and skills return demonstration test completes the 3-week training program. The PCA internship is three months in length after the 3-week training program, which includes unit orientations with PCA preceptors. The program was implemented in March 2020 with a pilot group of five PCA interns. 29 PCA interns have completed the training since April 2021. A focus group who completed the initial PCA intern training program was formed to understand their perception of job training and determine best strategies to promote recruitment of high-caliber PCAs. PCA interns perceive their training as informative with effective learning of rationale for patient cares and they recommend the program. The focus group identified strategies to recruit high- caliber PCAs. These strategies include seeking individuals who are self-motivated, willing to learn, and humble. A bonus of this training is the program satisfies the requirements for a state’s CNA challenge where individuals may take the CNA exam without completing a CNA state-approved course. Currently 26 of the 29 PCAs who have completed the training work in various medical-surgical areas including cardiology, oncology, trauma, and rehabilitation units. Nursing assistants are essential front-line health care providers. Recruiting and retaining a high-caliber UAP staffing force is imperative to positively impacting patient safety and quality patient outcomes on medical-surgical units.
DNP, RN, CMSRN,
The University of Kansas Health System
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