Caregivers may see more professionalism in the field


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A bill mandating state-licensed training for direct-care workers has invoked mixed responses among local caregiving officials.

The bill, introduced Feb. 27 and currently in the Senate, would require the approximately 73,000 direct-care workers in Iowa to receive training through a board of direct-care professionals that would be established by the legislation. AARP Iowa officials offered their support, saying the prospect of formal licensing would also attract the 12,000 additional caregivers needed in upcoming years.

The legislation is aimed mostly at incoming direct-care providers, AARP media contact Ann Black said.

"Not having training puts people in an awkward situation if they have to provide hands-on care," she said.

Yet some local caregiving officials say company-based training already often in place.

Judy Parks, a case-management supervisor at Elder Services — which provides caregivers for the Iowa City Ecumenical Towers, 320 E. Washington St. — said nurse supervisors there already work with unlicensed care providers.

"I don't think licensing would be a good safeguard against untrained workers because we already have a system in place," she said. "My other concern is that businesses would have to pay for these licenses."

But John Hale, a public policy consultant for the Iowa Caregivers Association, said he's confident the bill would not put undue financial strain on affected businesses.

"All training will be affordable," he said. "It will not strain employees economically."

Hale said currently employed direct-care workers would pay an estimated $20 to $30 for their licenses if they are unlicensed. Licensed employees — such as certified nurses' aides — would be acknowledged for their accomplishment.

The training would require a minimum of six hours statewide. Workers could then take additional training to specialize in a caregiving field such as dentistry, optometry or cancer treatment.

Different secondary program prices and levels of training may vary because the Board of Direct Services have yet to finalize the program.

Hale said both training programs would be in the best interests of health-care providers.

"The license program provides additional training which allows employers to give better care," he said.

Sen. Jack Kibbie, D-Emmetsburg, the vice chairman of the State Government Committee, agreed licenses are more of a benefit than a regulation.

"Many times, these people are the lowest-paid people and don't get enough recognition," he said. "It's about time we recognized them with [the licensing legislation]."

Black said the effort to standardize training is also an attempt to attract newcomers. Though she said the direct-care field is one of the largest in Iowa — with 72,000 employees — she expressed concern that workers going into the field without adequate training may not be ready to handle the full range of the job's requirements.

The training is common sense for most AARP members who already mistakenly believed workers were licensed, said Kent Sovern, Iowa director for AARP.

"Most general services have training requirements: plumbers, electricians, massage therapists," he said. "We're just trying to assure at least some basic training."

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