COVID-19 Proved Just How Unsupported Nursing Assistants Are at U.S. Long-Term Care Facilities
According to the National Direct Care Workforce Resource Center,
more than 600,000 nursing assistants provide personal care, assistance with daily activities, and clinical support for 1.4 million nursing home residents nationwide. In a revealing editorial by the Co-Founder & CEO of the National Association of Health Care Assistants (NAHCA), Lori Porter says the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic has been the darkest time for these workers, resulting in failures in care and protection against injuries, illness, and infectious diseases.
“CNAs were initially unprotected with makeshift PPE and little to no hazard pay, while other professions took unemployment and earned an additional $600 per week. The average CNA does not even make $600 per week for their great sacrifices during 2020 and into 2021. CNAs have never had a professional win. We have heard 40 years of lip service about how important they are, but there has been no real change to improve their professional lives. To care so little for CNAs is to care very little about our elders in America. …. There is no professional more committed to person-centered care than a dedicated CNA. Pay is an issue, but most CNAs want help. They want more CNAs because they know person-centered care is not possible without CNAs to practice it. There is nothing person-centered about having only one CNA for 30 or more residents. Based on reports I receive daily from CNAs across the country, nursing home residents sometimes go with little or no touch in any given shift. That is both a wake-up call and a referendum on reforming our long-term care system for elders. The model of the past 40 years has not proven successful, and reforming our workforce ecosystem is a must. Over the past 20 years, CNA staffing has only gotten worse. Providing person-centered care hinges on residents having professional CNAs in the numbers necessary to meet their emotional, physical, and psychosocial needs and provide care. That was not happening prior to COVID and certainly is not happening now.”
Before the pandemic began, nursing homes had a 94% staff turnover rate — with even higher movement at low-rated facilities. Turnover rates among nursing assistants are typically correlated with facility location, for-profit status, chain ownership, Medicaid patient census, and star ratings reported on the Nursing Home Compare website.
Learning More About a Nursing Home Assistant’s Job
Nursing assistants provide as much as 40% of a nursing home’s workforce. They may go by Certified Nursing Assistant, Certified Nursing Aides, Nursing Attendant, Nursing Aide, or Nursing Care Attendant in Illinois. These workers provide the majority of assistance to residents and long-term care patients, such as dressing, bathing, food preparation and eating, rehabilitation, hygiene, communication with family, socialization, and ambulating.
- More than 9 in 10 nursing assistants are women.
- Most nursing assistants are under age 45.
- The median age is 36.
- Nursing assistant jobs are primarily government-funded.
- Of the industry’s $116 billion in annual revenue, 73% of these jobs are paid for by public programs, mainly Medicare and Medicaid.
- Their wages are low. Nursing assistants earn a median hourly wage of $11.87 and a median annual income of $19,000.
- Due to the repeated lifting and carrying required to assist residents, nursing assistants are injured 3.5 times more frequently than the typical American worker.
- While people of color make up one-quarter of the total U.S. workforce, they comprise most of the nursing assistant workforce. Over one-third of these workers are Black or African American.
- Because poverty rates are high among nursing assistants, nearly 40% rely on some form of public assistance.
- Only 20% of nursing assistants were born outside of the United States.
- Over 90% are U.S. citizens.
- Half of all nursing assistants have completed no formal education beyond high school.
- Because nursing assistant jobs require little education, experience, or training, and it is an accessible occupation for workers who encounter educational or language barriers when seeking employment.
Nursing assistants spend more time assisting residents than any other nursing staff, providing a median of 2.4 hours of hands-on care per resident per day. Their frequent interactions with residents enable them to observe changes in medical conditions and behaviors, and report these changes to licensed nursing staff.
To those who fight for justice for the elderly, we know that many nursing home owners and administrators deliberately understaff their facilities to save as much money as possible. And because nursing assistants make up the most significant percentage of staff at nursing homes, cutting back on the number of nursing assistants they employ can translate into substantial savings at the risk of patient care. Cost-cutting and unethical practices create a cascade of adverse effects resulting in high employee turnover as well.
For nearly 30 years, the nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Levin & Perconti have worked with Illinois nursing assistants to report care violations and protect them from retaliatory action by the nursing home that employs them. We appreciate the courage of all nursing home employees who have reached out to us and shared their stories. They are creating change and protections for residents by being the voices of those left unheard.
Illinois Nursing Home Negligence Should Never Be Ignored
If you suspect an understaffed nursing home facility has contributed to the decline of a loved one’s health or put them in danger during this unprecedented time, please contact us for a free consultation. Our founder, Steven Levin, is a nationally-known attorney and public speaker and has been a pioneer in reshaping nursing home litigation since the 1970s.
Call us at 877-374-1417 or in Chicago at 312-332-2872 to speak with one of our experienced nursing home negligence lawyers in Illinois. You will never pay any fees unless we successfully resolve your claim.
Source: U.S. NURSING ASSISTANTS EMPLOYED IN NURSING HOMES: KEY FACTS. (2020). PHI. https://phinational.org/wp-content/uploads/legacy/phi-nursing-assistants-key-facts.pdf