Student featured in NEPM report on Nurse Aid Shortages

Sandra Maria Varela working at her desk, looking at a laptop screen
Sandra Maria Varela

New England Public Media’s Nancy Eve Cohen spoke with several immigrants, including former ESOL and nurse aid training student Sandra Maria Varela, about the significant shortage of Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) in western Massachusetts. CNAs and home health aides are crucial yet low-paid healthcare workers. Despite efforts to increase training and pay, the demand for these workers remains unmet due to the challenging nature of the job and barriers such as the state certification exam. Many immigrants with relevant experience could help fill these roles, but language barriers make passing the English-only certification exam difficult.

Initiatives are underway to provide the exam in multiple languages and offer English language instruction alongside CNA training. Employers are actively seeking to hire by attending job fairs and offering incentives, but retention is tough due to the demanding work and low pay.

Recognizing the critical need for CNAs, the state plans to offer the certification exam in several languages starting in July, and legislation aims to ensure the exam is understandable and aligns with approved textbooks.

Read the full article on the NEPM website