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Conaway, Vainieri Huttle & Benson Legislation Requiring DOH to Establish Educational, Professional Advancement Programs for Nurses Passes Committee

With the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting the importance of infection control measures in saving lives, Assembly Democrats Herb Conaway, Valerie Vainieri Huttle and Daniel Benson sponsor legislation that would help educate New Jersey nurses on infection control and other important health care procedures. The legislation was advanced by the Assembly Health Committee on Thursday.

The bill (A-5059) would require the Department of Health (DOH) to establish an infection prevention course for registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs) employed in long-term care facilities. The department would also develop methods to encourage and incentivize RNs and LPNs to complete the course.

“Between close living quarters and a substantial number of employees/visitors coming in and out of the building, our long-term care facilities are all-too susceptible to viral outbreaks,” said Assemblyman Conaway (D-Burlington). “It is critical we make sure the nurses taking care of these residents have the information and training they need to protect residents from exposure to infectious and potentially deadly diseases.”

Among other material, the infection prevention course would include information about modes of disease transmission, sterilization and sanitization processes, criteria for identifying infections in patients and appropriate measures to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

“This pandemic has been a heartbreaking confirmation of the fact that the residents in our long-term care facilities are some of the most vulnerable to infectious disease outbreaks,” said Assemblywoman Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Preparing nurses in these facilities to identify and stop the spread of contagious illnesses would help prevent the kind of tragic loss of life we’ve seen this year.”

The DOH would also incorporate an infection prevention component into existing certified nurse aide (CNA) school curricula and develop a mandatory infection prevention course for existing CNAs to take as a part of the annual education they must receive while serving as a nurse.

“Training more New Jersey nurses in both infection prevention measures and post-acute care would go a long way in preparing our state for potential future pandemics,” said Assemblyman Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “It would also improve the overall quality of care and the practices health care professionals engage in on a day-to-day basis.”

The legislation further requires the DOH to find ways to encourage RNs to enroll in education and training on post-acute care, as well as review nursing degree requirements to determine if they should be modified to better prepare RNs to work in post-acute care settings.

Post-acute care facilities help patients recover from a recent illness. Many people with severe COVID-19 cases were sent to these facilities after moving past the life-threatening stage of their illness.

The DOH would also be required to establish a pilot program to develop standards for the professional advancement of CNAs.

The bill now heads to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.