Tuesday, November 29, 2022

From uniforms to scrub: Minnesota National Guard members turned guardians into a final mission

From uniforms to scrub: Minnesota National Guard members turned guardians into a final mission

At the head of the life-size mannequins, small groups of Minnesota National Guard took turns asking their fake patients how they were doing, whether they could bring them a cup of coffee or help them use the bathroom.

One by one, the students at Century College in White Bear Lake practiced gently turning patients onto their sides, changing their beds and helping them sit up.

These 10 people, among hundreds of Minnesota National Guard members, are undergoing 75 hours of training this week to become Certified Nursing Assistants and Temporary Nursing Assistants. At 16 Minnesota State College campuses across the state, Guard members learned about grooming protocols and practiced techniques on dummies and other guardsmen.

They will need to return to lessons starting Sunday as members of the guard change their uniforms for scrubs and receive field training to assist staff in dozens of long-term care facilities who have sought help as they cope with a shortage of caregivers. …

“We’re at a crisis level,” said Kari Thurlow, senior vice president of advocacy at LeadingAge Minnesota. “We have vacancies and our staff is exhausted, so being able to bring in the National Guard to provide assistance within two, potentially up to three weeks will provide much-needed time as service providers try to work every day for permanent staff. solutions. “

State health officials announced last month that they are recruiting 400 members of the Minnesota National Guard to fill gaps in Minnesota’s long-term care facilities. The move came when the long-term care industry reported a shortage of 23,000 people in its care workforce, which is about 20% of the full-time workforce.

Because of this gap, more than 70% of Minnesota nursing homes have been unable to accommodate new residents, according to industry leaders.


Lack of one or two nurses is a headache enough for an institution. This means that others work longer shifts and may be attracted by more employees, as well as those who are not caring for them, to help with work that does not belong to them.

“We are in the care of the elderly, and you cannot limit opening hours, you cannot cut services, you cannot close for one day,” Thurlow said. “So, the choices we make in this particular situation means we don’t care about us, we don’t accept as many elderly people as we need help right now.”

Deficits also cause more serious bottlenecks. Lacking sufficient discharge beds for patients who no longer needed intensive or urgent care, hospitals were forced to keep patients in much-needed beds and refuse others in need of care.

Due to the large number of COVID-19 patients requiring intensive care, in addition to those with severe illness or injury, Minnesota hospitals have sought help.

And early last month, Waltz’s administration opened alternative healthcare facilities to reduce the burden on hospitals. Department of Defense medical teams also came in last week in addition to emergency services at Hennepin Healthcare in Minneapolis and St Cloud Hospital. The Walz administration said Thursday that a third group will be deployed at M Health Fairview Southdale in Edin.

“This is unprecedented,” Health Commissioner Ian Malcolm said when federal doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists began rotating in Minnesota on Nov.23. several medical and surgical beds or intensive care beds open on any surgical day for such movements. “

The unprecedented situation called for a swift and unprecedented response, state health officials, Minnesota National Guard leaders and University of Minnesota system instructors, who helped push the program forward in just over a week, said.

“Just as the Guard was called to action by the Governor, our staff were called to action,” Angelia Millender of Century College said Tuesday. On Sunday, a group of 10 National Guard fighters began intensive training there.


The tight deadlines create problems, Millender said. But the teachers were willing to cut or skip their Thanksgiving plans to get ready. Campus leaders have taken action to free up the skills lab, keep classrooms open on Sundays, and provide instructional equipment to help guardsmen and women prepare.

According to Linnett Lancor, program manager for the Century Health Careers Program, Century College typically enrolled 500 students in an uncertified nursing assistant training program in the semester prior to COVID-19 and 1,000 in a certified program in the semester before COVID-19. But the pandemic, burnout health workers and low salaries in some places have reduced the school’s talent pool, she said, along with a broader pool of caregivers.

“We’ve always seen really high recruitment rates across all campuses, but when you sit down and see what’s happening with COVID and you can make $ 15 an hour at Target, what would you do?” said Lancor.

Lancor said she hopes recruiting hundreds of new people through the program can motivate some to stay in nursing positions or encourage them to pursue careers in the healthcare industry.

“They don’t just come and complement long term care, but they are introduced to careers and potential careers. They leave with something in their hands, said Lancor. “So what a great investment at a time when we need it so much more.”


Lt. Col. Brian Doughty is in charge of the Guard’s COVID-19 response mission, and he said most of the guardsmen on the staffing mission volunteered. And Guard officials did not lose sight of the fact that those who work in the health sector in their civilian life will not be fired to fill the positions of nursing assistants.

“There really is no need to rob Peter to pay Paul, so if we’re going to take them out of the hospital to put them in a long-term care facility, we’re not solving the problem at all,” Doughty said. … “So we tried to leave them alone as much as possible.”

For trainees who were new to healthcare, this mission proved to be an exciting one, even if they didn’t think they would continue to nurse for the long term.

“The training is really good, so I am very happy to experience it in real conditions,” said 25-year-old Hoshinio Andrew. “I really look forward to meeting those who need us.”

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