Are Nurse Staffing Ratios in Long-Term Care Facilities Safe?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on July 18, 2019 in Nursing Home Abuse
Updated on February 24, 2022

nurse-with-tabletIf you have a loved one living in either a long-term care home (LTC) or skilled nursing facility (SNF), you want to know they are happy, well-cared for and safe. However, that confidence could be tested when you discover that today’s nurse staffing ratio requirements for LTC and SNF were established in the 1987 Federal Law and Regulations on Nurse Staffing. Nurses are also expressing their concern over these regulations being inadequate to allow them to properly care for residents.

What are Current Staff Ratio Requirements?

The safety of staffing ratios has long been disputed, especially by the overworked nurses trying to maintain an adequate level of care. According to The Nursing Home Reform Law of 1987, both LTC’s and SNF’s are required to maintain the following staffing ratios:

  • One registered nurse on site for eight consecutive hours, seven days per week
  • Additional licensed nurses 24 hours per day, seven days per week
  • Other nursing staff to “sufficiently” meet the needs of residents

What are the Daily Skilled Nursing Care Responsibilities?

During a standard eight-hour work shift, a licensed nurse is required to make sure every resident is properly cared for and safe while simultaneously and accurately performing these duties:

  • Pass medications at least twice within a two-hour time frame, each shift
  • Monitor blood sugars for diabetic patients and administer insulin
  • Take vital signs
  • Supervise certified nursing assistants
  • Attend wound care
  • Take in and transcribe physician orders
  • Write-up all incident reports and other documentation
  • Manage any requirements for transportation or diagnostic testing
  • Schedule any resident appointments
  • Be mindful of mealtimes

Complex Medical Issues Commonly-Seen in Nursing Homes

In addition to residents living longer, both LTF’s and SNC’s are gaining a larger number of residents that have more significant and complicated medical issues, including various levels of mental issues. Many of these conditions require the higher-level nursing and rehabilitation skills of a registered nurse. Some of these commonly-seen medical challenges include:

  • Tracheostomy management
  • Complex wound care
  • TPN (Total parenteral nutrition)
  • Assisted ventilation
  • JP drains
  • Life vests
  • Administering IV medications

Actual Staffing Ratios

In addition to the study by Harvard-Vanderbilt, a recent Facebook group polled thousands of LTC/SNF nurses for an insider perspective of staffing ratios. Thousands responded to this voluntary poll with numbers that were astonishing and well below the staffing ratios required by federal law.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regularly audits nursing homes that receive federal funding, so you may be asking how these sub-par staffing ratios go unchecked. In the past, CMS relied on LTC’s and SNF’s self-reported data, allowing nursing facilities to manipulate the numbers and thereby achieving higher CMS ratings.

Does This Create an Unsafe Environment for Your Loved One?

When nursing homes are regularly understaffed, it can lead to nurses being burned out, overworked, exhausted and short-tempered. For your loved one, it can mean:

  • Increased risk of infections
  • Greater frequency of bed sores
  • Injuries caused by falls
  • Weight loss
  • Malnutrition
  • Medication errors

Speak to an Experienced Lawyer Today

If you suspect your loved one has become a victim of negligence or abuse in his or her assisted living facility, please contact one of our Wisconsin nursing home abuse lawyers today for a free consultation.

Our dedicated team has more than a decade of handling cases like these, and we understand the concerns you have for your family member. We have the experience and knowledge to guide you through every step of the legal process to help you get the justice your loved one deserves. There is no risk or obligation to you as we do not charge for our services unless we are successful in winning compensation for you.

You can get in touch with PKSD right now by calling us at 877-877-2228.

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