At the core of nursing home workers’ overworked and underpaid reality is the insufficient supply of staff to care for an overwhelming demand of elderly residents.
Nursing home workers struggle to function properly without enough time to sleep, take a break, or socialize with friends and family. Still, no amount of caffeine or encouraging words can surmount the difficulties of understaffing. So, when nursing home workers take on more than they can handle, they not only put their senior patients at risk but also endanger their own lives.
When nursing homeowners or companies try to reduce labor costs at the expense of their people’s welfare, nursing home workers must fight for their rights to a safe workplace.
Spotting signs of understaffing
The COVID-19 pandemic only magnified the systemic issue of staffing shortages. But New Jersey was one of the states that urgently addressed this longstanding long-term care problem after the pandemic. The state signed S2712 to establish minimum standards in its nursing homes’ staff-to-resident ratio. The new bill also designated a task force to submit reports evaluating nursing home workers’ growth opportunities and adequately incentivize their efforts.
To continue combating this health care crisis, it will help to detect understaffing red flags early to avoid possible injuries and deaths.
- Unanswered calls or delayed responses, when patients request assistance or their loved ones, ask for updates
- Undermanned night shifts due to companies prioritizing profit by cutting down on night differential compensation
- Poor performance caused by burnout, like falling asleep on the job, forgetting medication hours or shouting at patients out of frustration
When left unaddressed, these signs can result in severe injuries and even deaths. Depending on their circumstances, nursing home workers can eventually fall on their backs trying to lift a senior resident because no one more physically capable is available.
They can also contract needlestick injuries from facilitating an injection with a used needle when they are barely awake. As they multitask, they may also find less time to monitor proper hygiene.
Advocating for higher standards of care
As much as nursing home workers have a duty of care to their patients, they also have a right to demand safe working policies from their companies. The state’s workers’ compensation protects nursing home workers who sustained life-threatening injuries. A legal counsel can help nursing staff understand the insurance coverage to hold their employers accountable.