Experts agree that staffing is by far the most important factor when it comes to a nursing home’s safety and quality of care. Each nursing home is required to have appropriate staff to ensure that each resident receives treatments, medications, diets and other health services based on their individual care plans. Yet, many states do not mandate numerical safe staffing standards for nursing homes. Studies and expert analysis have concluded that 4.1 hours per patient per day is the minimum safe staffing to provide quality of care to residents in nursing homes. New York is thinking about mandating safe staffing.
According to federal data analyzed by News 4 Investigates, nursing homes in New York have the most average number of residents per day in the United States. More than 117,000 people reside in nursing homes in New York.
But nursing homes in the state don’t stack up as well when it comes to staffing.
In fact, the state ranks in the lower 20 percent nationwide when it comes to measuring staffing hours per resident per day, according to the federal data.
For example, the state ranked:
- 41st in reported total nurse staffing hours per resident per day
- 41st in reported nursing aide staffing hours per resident per day
- 40th in reporting registered nurse staffing hours per resident per day
- 37th in reported licensed staffing hours per resident per day
A January 2006 report by former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer found that staffing levels in about 70% of nursing homes in New York did not meet the standards set in Florida; about 38% did not meet the standard in California; and about 26% did not meet the standards in Vermont.
Gabrielle Simano worked at three different nursing homes in Western New York before she called it quits last year.
She loved the work but the “staffing crisis” as she described it got to be too much for her to handle.
“I feel like if I don’t say something, then it is not going to get fixed,” Simano said.
The certified nursing assistant said a lot of the problems she witnessed had a direct link to understaffing at each nursing home.
“There is a lot of low staffing and it is hard to take care of people when you don’t have enough staff that have your back,” she said.
“Ultimately, it is not safe for employees, it is not safe for the residents.”
She described a workplace where she only had about five minutes every two hours for each of her 22 residents on the dementia floor. Five minutes to get a resident out of a wheelchair, clean them and change their undergarments. She said she would literally sprint room to room to help residents, some of whom were unable to walk, talk or eat alone. The hectic pace was perpetuated, she said, by a lack of staffing and a safety rule that requires an employee to check on residents at least every two hours and change them if they are incontinent.