At a recent Friday Huddle, the conversation about workforce needs in the pandemic era shifted to CNA need and training concerns. A concern that caught our attention was a requirement for NA students to take COVID-19 tests prior to beginning clinical training at their worksites. Pre-licensure nursing programs have heard similar requests from clinical sites as they consider student placement for the Fall term.
So why would this rather simple and smart request from health care providers create such a kerfuffle?
- Test Access – Though there are handy tools available to identify organizations offering COVID-19 testing, many of these test sites are limited to individual experiencing symptoms, or, if you’re lucky, individuals who are health care providers. There is still a lack of consensus about whether health care students fall into the health care provider category. So, students are relegated to finding a test site willing to screen an asymptomatic member of the public.
- Test Cost – What does a COVID-19 cost? Is it covered by insurance? Is it covered by insurance if you are asymptomatic? The answers to these questions are murky, and may vary depending upon individual coverage. In fact, OHA’s guidance for health care workers, warns “COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic individuals may not be covered by insurance.”
- Final Responsibility – Is securing and paying for a COVID-19 screening test the responsibility of the student? Should training programs and schools be required to cover testing costs? Or should the responsibility screening costs lie with employers, who have a vested interest in cultivating the next generation of health care workers?
If the pipeline of health care workers is to remain strong, so health care workers are available to meet the needs of our communities, employers, educators and policymakers must work together to establish a method for students and prospective hires to easily obtain COVID-19 testing. Continuing to require individuals to locate and pay for testing on their own will only delay or reduce the pool of available health care workers.
OCN is a nonprofit organization created by nursing leaders in 2002. OCN facilitates research and collaboration for Oregon’s nursing workforce to support informed, well-prepared, diverse and exceptional nursing professionals. Recognized by the Oregon state legislature as a state advisor for nursing workforce issues, OCN fulfills its mission through nurse workforce research, building partnerships, and promoting nursing and healthcare. For more information about OCN, please visit www.oregoncenterfornursing.org.