Ridgewater College to provide free nursing assistant course in January to address shortage

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Dec. 30—WILLMAR — Ridgewater College is responding to the nursing home staffing shortage in Minnesota by offering nursing assistant classes at no cost to participants at both their Hutchinson and Willmar campuses..

The free training is in response to Gov. Tim Walz's Dec. 6 announcement to recruit, train and deploy at least 1,000 certified nursing assistants for Minnesota long-term care facilities.

"We're proud to answer the governor's call to train certified nursing assistants during the pandemic," Sam Bowen, dean of customized training and continuing education, said in a news release about the program. "Our instructors and staff have been outstanding at adapting to the ever-changing situation."

Bowen said the college already does 15 to 18 non-credit classes between both campuses, but with the governor's initiative to offer free classes, "it was a no brainer for us to get going on this," he told the West Central Tribune.

When the class was announced, the slots filled up quickly, according to Jacob Seamans, communications officer for Ridgewater College.

Seamans said that there have been longstanding staffing issues in the industry that have only been exacerbated by the pandemic.

"These are people on the ground every day who are helping people," Seamans said in an interview.

The classes will be offered in a hybrid format in both Hutchinson and Willmar. The 32 students, already enrolled, will complete the four-week course at the end of January.

The Governor's Office is hoping to use money from the federal American Rescue Plan to fund the statewide initiative.

This isn't the first request for training to which Ridgewater has responded during the pandemic. Ridgewater recently trained several members of the Minnesota National Guard for deployment as emergency temporary nursing assistants.

The training offered will model this initiative, though the National Guard members completed their certification in a week.

Seamans said that within two weeks of the governor's order, National Guard members were there to train.

"That only happens when there's a profound need for it," Seamans said.

Once trained, the new CNAs will be eligible for employment at Minnesota long-term care facilities that are facing severe staffing shortages.

"We know there's a demand for long-term care," Seamans said. "We're confident all of them will find employment."

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