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New White Paper of the Importance of Staffing

Few nursing home administration details are talked about more in relation to ensuring proper care and avoiding neglect and abuse than staffing levels. The research effort was published by OnShift, and is available at the LTL Magazine online here. The main idea of the paper is to stress the importance of “staffing acuity.” It lists five reasons to make a focus on these staffing issues a top priority for long term care management.

The first of those reasons relates to quality of care. The paper pointed to research showing that “acuity drives better outcomes.” The paper notes that this care is a more “clinically driven and individualized approach.”

Important in identifying proper staffing levels is appropriate technologies and monitoring systems. The report note that changes in resident conditions, assessment, or intake rates affect what is an appropriate staffing level. In that way, every day (and every shift) can include the right number of staff members with the right skill set. Our lawyers who work on cases of abuse and neglect in Illinois are very familiar with the problems that come with mismatched staffing levels and skills. The sad truth is that most facilities have a long-way to go before their staffing is appropriate at all times. It is perhaps unsurprising that the problems usually stem to facilities having too few staff members who are not properly trained to ensure all residents receive the care they need. This is unacceptable, and those families affecting are well served by protecting their legal rights when it causes harm.

The white paper notes that this focus on proper staffing comes with better nursing home rating and reimbursements. It notes how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services based it five star rating system, in part on staffing. But total staffing is not all that matters. The paper notes that for the rating purposes “staffing rating encompasses not only the hours of care provided each day, but also adjustments based on the level of acuity of a home’s residents.”

This focus is also on reducing hospital readmission rates from the nursing homes. When a resident’s health deteriorates, he or she may be forced to go back to the hospital. On some occasions that health deterioration is connected to neglect by staff members at the nursing home. It is for this reason that many reform efforts at the state and federal level is focused on reducing hospital readmission rates. Facilities with superior rates may see reimbursement benefits while those with the worst rates could face penalties. Improving staffing levels and training is perhaps the most critical way to limit those costly and harmful hospital readmission rates.

Finally, beyond improving care and providing financial incentive to the facility via CMS ratings and reimbursements, the focus on staffing also leads directly to improved employee, resident, and family satisfaction rates. In our work on these cases, our attorneys have worked with many staff members who note that one of the biggest challenges of their jobs is not having enough time to perform all of their caregiving duties. Those unsatisfied caregivers are more likely to leave their jobs and therefore increase turnover rates. Those turnover rates affect the quality of patient care as well as the financial costs to the facility.

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