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'Suspicious' results force Minn. nursing aides to retake exam

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State health officials are requiring 569 people to retake tests to become federally qualified nursing assistants after finding "suspicious" patterns in test results at Inver Hills Community College.

The testing in question happened at Inver Hills' Center for Professional and Workforce Development and its satellite location at Blue Sky Online in West St. Paul between May 2014 and October 2015. 

Inver Hills, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system and the Minnesota Department of Health began investigating after discovering "evidence of anomalies in test results associated with the two sites, raising questions about their reliability," the Health Department said in a statement Tuesday.

Testing has been discontinued at both locations pending the outcome of the investigation. The department did not detail the nature of the patterns discovered but is "taking the precaution of requiring retests for all who took the tests at those two locations during the time indicated."

Minnesota has more than 55,000 certified nursing assistants in the state, generally providing basic care services to patients in nursing homes, assisted living centers, hospitals and other health care settings, officials said.

"To help employers verify the qualifications of potential nursing assistants prior to hiring them, the state and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services maintain a registry of certified nursing assistants. To be added to the registry, prospective workers must pass a written test and a skills test required by the state and CMS," according to the department.

Those who took the tests at these two locations during the time indicated can continue to work but will need to retake the tests by no later than March 31, the department said. Workers will not be charged for the retesting.

Those who don't pass the retest by that date will be ineligible to work as a nursing assistant at a federally certified nursing home and may not be able to get hired by many state licensed homes.

"Since nursing assistants must be supervised and receive specialized training after hiring and prior to working with patients, there is a relatively low risk to patients," Health Department Assistant Commissioner Gil Acevedo said in a statement. "Regardless, it is important to re-establish the credentials of these nursing assistants as quickly as possible without causing an undue disruption for workers, employers, or patients."