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Bill Would Declare Official CNA to Patient Ratios in New Jersey Nursing Homes

CNA and elder patient

A major proposition has passed the New Jersey Assembly Human Services Committee and will soon be handed to the New Jersey House for a vote. The bill would specify the ratio of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) to patients in New Jersey nursing homes. According to a spokesperson for 1199SEIU, the major New Jersey union that represents healthcare workers, the state ranks 44th in CNA to patient ratios.

No Federal Laws Regarding Nursing Home Staffing
The Federal government recommends nursing homes employ enough staff to meet the needs of the residents, but it does not specify a ratio of CNAs, LPNs, or RNs to residents.  The government also advises nursing homes to devote at least 4.1 hours of direct care per resident each day, with at least 1.2 of those hours with an LPN and 1.2 hours with an RN.  However, there are no federal laws mandating staffing ratios or the number of required hours of direct care for nursing home residents.

The New Jersey bill calls for:

  • 1 CNA for every 8 nursing home residents during day shift (typically 7 am – 3 pm)
  • 1 CNA for every 10 residents during night shift (typically 3 pm – 11 pm) and
  • 1 CNA for every 16 residents during overnight shift (typically 11 pm – 7 am)

While nursing home owners are already voicing their dislike of the bill, another major issue lies in the current CNA shortage facing the state. Filling open CNA positions has been a problem in New Jersey and the passage of the bill would immediately require 3,000 CNAs be hired.

Illinois Also Facing CNA Shortage
As of January 1, 2014, Illinois requires 3.8 daily hours of nursing and personal care for residents that require skilled care. This is supposed to include 57 minutes with a nurse, 23 of which are to be spent with a registered nurse (RN). The remaining 171 minutes (2.85 hours) of care are to be provided by a CNA.

For Illinois nursing home residents who require intermediate care, state law calls for 2.5 hours of nursing and personal care per day. Of the 2.5 hours, 38 minutes are to be spent with a nurse, 15 of which are to be with an RN. The remaining 112 minutes (or 1.87 hours) can be with a CNA.

Like New Jersey, Illinois is also facing a CNA shortage. Pay is low for the work required (average national pay is less than $13 an hour) and many CNAs are nursing students who only pursue their CNA certificate to gain experience before finishing their nursing degree. In a nursing home, CNA responsibilities are not glamorous and the work is both physically and emotionally demanding. Most CNAs know that nursing homes tend to be understaffed, requiring CNAs to manage the complex needs and demanding tasks of a large number of residents.

Understaffing puts nursing home residents in harm’s way. Among many other oversights, calls for help may go unanswered, residents can go unchanged and unbathed, and rotating residents at risk for bed sores can easily be forgotten. The problem starts at the top. If nursing home operators are not willing to pay to hire, train, and maintain enough staff, CNAs are left shouldering an enormous patient load and can quickly face burn out.

If someone you love has been harmed in an Illinois nursing home, the nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys at Chicago’s Levin & Perconti are here to help you. Our attorneys have spent nearly 3 decades tirelessly fighting for justice for those who cannot defend themselves. We have successfully recovered nearly $700 million in verdicts and settlements for our clients.

Please, contact us now for a free consultation with one of our lawyers.

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