Certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are responsible for the majority of care provided in nursing homes. AARP says “The job of a CNA can be difficult and hazardous. CNAs have demanding workloads and are often responsible for manually lifting and turning residents, which can cause lower back injuries. They can also be exposed to infections, diseases (such as tuberculosis), and physical violence from residents.”
Many of these nursing assistants are working incredibly long hours and multiple days in a row, pushing them into overtime. For many reasons, this already exhausting and demanding job is made even more so.
We’d like to share a current snapshot of the nursing assistant industry:
- The nursing assistant industry is 650,000 strong (source: Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute-PHI)
- 91% of nursing assistants are female (source: PHI)
- 1/3 of nursing assistants are black (source: PHI)
- Less than half of nursing assistants have a full-time job, but more than 1/2 of them work overtime (source: PHI)
- One third of nursing assistants rely on some form of public aid (source: PHI)
- The average pay for a CNA in Chicago is $12.41 an hour (source: Indeed.com)
- The average pay for a babysitter with 0-1 years experience in Chicago is $12.50 (source: Care.com)
Too Many Hours, Too Little Pay, Too Little Help
Why is a babysitter with hardly an experience making more per hour watching one child than a nursing assistant responsible for multiple residents, all with differing needs? ThinkProgress.org describes the current situation by saying “Taking care of the elderly and disabled has long been seen as “women’s work”…racism and sexism have combined to keep the workforce poorly paid and poorly treated.” In fact, the top hit for a Google search of “nursing assistant job bad” brings up an Indeed.com forum that begins with a post labeled “You’ve been warned.” The next handful of search results aren’t much better. The fact is that it’s a well-known secret that CNAs are given the hard, “dirty” work and expected to do it and not complain, all while taking home poverty-level wages. What many are not discussing is that the industry is mostly made up of minority women and societal factors have allowed nursing homes to get away with continuing to underpay, undervalue, and quickly replace those who take on this challenging profession.
PHI estimates that 75% of nursing homes do not have enough nursing assistants at any given time to meet the staffing levels advised by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Most nursing home advocates will argue that understaffing is not a conscious financial decision but instead a “hands tied” scenario in which there are just too few nursing assistants looking for jobs. We don’t buy it.
As nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys with nearly 30 years experience talking to CNAs, we know that keeping fewer CNAs on the clock requires nursing assistants to work longer hours, take on more patients, have less time available for training, and pushes them to burnout faster. All so nursing homes can save money on paying benefits and wages. Employee turnover is expensive, but not more than paying fair wages and benefits to the nursing assistants who perform the work that keeps a nursing home in business.
Happy Employees Perform Better
Shouldn’t those who take on the hard work of caring for our loved ones be paid appropriately, trained well, and valued by their employer? A 2015 study out of the U.K. found that “happy” employees were 20% more productive than unhappy ones. Happy is a subjective term, but everyone would agree that happy employees are those who aren’t constantly worried about putting food on the table after working 7 straight days, or those who don’t have to worry that not responding immediately to a request will leave a patient’s life hanging in the balance because there’s just no one else to help out.
Nursing homes, please start to pay nursing assistants what they are worth. Those who continuously choose to understaff and underpay are risking neglect and abuse that can lead to injuries and even death.
We are Levin & Perconti.
If you are a nursing assistant who has information regarding an incident of nursing home abuse or neglect, we want to help you. Our attorneys specialize in litigation of nursing home and abuse cases, including protecting the legal rights of “whistleblowers.” You have a duty to report any instance of suspected or known abuse and you have protective rights under the law when doing so.
Call our nursing home whistleblower hotline at (312) 332-2872 for a free, confidential consultation with one of our attorneys.