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Short-Staffing Hurts Caregivers

Published on February 12th, 2020

NJ.com had a great article explaining why short-staffing at nursing homes are not only a danger to the residents but short-staffing is a danger to the staff as well.  Short-staffing causes injury, burn-out, and depression in the caregivers. Tasked with lifting, cleaning and caring for often helpless patients, certified nursing assistants work in one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. The article explains how many nurses get hurt when there is not enough staff to provide care such as transferring residents for personal hygiene or custodial care.

The job has a higher injury and illness rate than freight movers, construction laborers or carpenters, according to recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Out of more than 900 occupations sorted by injury and illness rate, nursing assistants nationwide ranked 34. The risk is especially acute in nursing homes because of the short-staffing. Many places are chronically short staffed, which puts workers in an even riskier situation.

Throughout the country, nursing and residential care facilities reported higher rates of injuries and illnesses than the vast majority of other workplaces in 2018, the most recent year available. In interviews with more than a dozen nursing home employees throughout the state, many repeatedly said the workers can be just as much a victim of staffing shortages as the residents.

Ashley Conway, a nurse and assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Management and Labor Relations, said short-staffing does contribute to injuries. An immobile patient who needs to go to the bathroom, for example, puts nursing assistants especially in a tough spot if they do not have help.

“Do I do let them lay in their in beds and cry for help, or risk a back injury?” she said. “It’s a lose-lose situation.”

Conway, who has also advised the state’s labor department, estimated that many injuries are never even reported, and she doubted whether many employees received workers’ compensation. Over the past eight years, more than 14,000 injuries and illnesses caused employees to miss at least one day of work at privately owned nursing and residential care facilities in New Jersey, a higher rate than the nation overall.

Many missed more. The state’s nursing assistants missed a median of six days of work in 2018, and New Jersey has reported some of the highest numbers of days missed when compared to other states throughout the decade.

Missing work can increase the strain on staff, creating a snowball effect. More than one employee recalled trying to call in sick because of exhaustion, and being pressured to show up anyway because of how few people were working.

The need for certified nursing assistants especially is only expected to increase as the 65-and-older population soars nationwide, from 47.8 million a few years ago to 88 million by 2050, according to the nonprofit research and advocacy organization LeadingAge.

 

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