Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer reported that certified nursing assistant jobs have one of the highest reported rates of injury in Ohio and across the nation, according to researchers and government reports. Nursing assistants are injured three times more often than the average worker, data show. The rate of injury among nursing assistants is similar to the rate among construction workers, police and firefighters, according to 2016 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
For the more than 75,000 residents of Ohio’s 960 nursing homes, nursing assistants provide nearly all of the hands-on care. It is a job that requires dedication, passion and empathy. State and federal officials have issued reports on injuries at nursing homes, dating back to 1999. The studies found that the lifting and moving of residents and the nonstop pace necessary to meet residents’ needs have caused thousands of Ohio nurses and nursing assistants to suffer injuries from overexertion and falls.
The pay in Ohio has trended downward for more than a decade, according to the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, a New York watchdog group that advocates for nursing assistants and home health-care workers. In 2006, their average wage was $12.80 an hour. In 2016, it was $11.96. (It is about $10.50 in South Carolina).
“It’s appalling,” said Toby Edelman, the senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy in Washington, D.C. “That’s not a living wage for anyone.”
The low pay and the physical demands of the job result in an unusually high turnover rate. In Ohio, that rate was 54 percent for nursing assistants at nursing homes in 2015, the most recent data available, said John Bowblis of the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Oxford.
To offer quality care, staffs at nursing homes should provide an average of 4.1 hours of care for a resident each day, researchers said.
“A large proportion of people in nursing homes need two [assistants] to help them move, and many nursing homes just don’t have enough staff to offer that,” said Charlene Harrington, a professor emeritus of nursing at the University of California at San Francisco and an expert on nursing home staffing. “The better the staffing in nursing homes, the better the care and the less likely workers will get injured.”
“This is a gargantuan problem in nursing homes,” said Brian Lee, who leads a Texas-based national advocacy group for nursing home residents called Families for Better Care. “[Nurses and nursing assistants] are overworked, short-staffed and underappreciated. The burnout, the frustration, the injuries. They can all be prevented if employers just hire more people.”