PHI National, an organization focused on the direct care workforce, released its annual report on the current landscape of the work place for direct care employees such as nursing assistants. Before providing their most recent findings, PHI National opens with this statement: “The poor quality of nursing assistant jobs makes it difficult for nursing homes to attract and retain enough workers to meet demand.” Why are nursing assistant jobs in nursing homes considered so difficult to fill and why is it so hard to keep good employees? The biggest factors go hand in hand. Nursing assistant wages in nursing homes are notoriously low. PHI National reveals that the national average is $11.87 an hour. The work of taking care of residents with a myriad of complex mental and physical diagnoses is both physically and emotionally demanding, so much so that the average nursing assistant is 3.5 times more likely to be injured on the job than other American workers. When you pile endless responsibilities onto the plate of someone making less than $12 an hour, it should come as no surprise that you have a profession filled with overwhelmed, overworked, and emotionally drained employees. This is when mistakes are made and accidents happen. This is when the elderly are neglected, abused, left alone for hours, left in bathtubs overnight, fall while trying to use the bathroom, wander without being stopped, are giving the wrong medication, and develop pressure sores.
Chronic Understaffing Causing Employee Burnout and Resident Abuse and Neglect
Before we address the findings from PHI National’s recent report, we must address the driving force behind the trend in high patient to nursing assistant ratios. To put it bluntly, the cause is greed. The majority of nursing homes in the U.S. are privately owned, many by equity groups who view them as investments. The tragic heat-related deaths we recently witnessed at the Hollywood, FL nursing home after Hurricane Irma finally showed the world that money and profits are valued more than the health and safety of the elderly. In fact, it was only after the death of 8 residents from the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills that several other south Florida nursing homes without air conditioning began moving residents.