What Would You Do If You Worked for a Bad Nursing Home?

What do you do if you work for a nursing home that is breaking the law?  Even with all of the laws and safeguards in place, many nursing homes find ways to cut corners.  The nursing staff and residents suffer when these home are allowed to operate with low quality conditions.

Here in New York,  I was employed by a nursing home with deplorable conditions for staff and residents.  Aides would try their best to give the proper care to residents most of the time, but there were a handful that had stopped caring.  While they did not physically abuse the residents, you could see that they did not enjoy their job and the residents were not happy, either.

Every week there were staff shortages.  Higher quality homes will try to schedule five CNAs per wing – two CNAs per hall with an extra aide to fill in for two person transfers and transporting residents through the facility.  This particular home would schedule only two aides per hall with no extra aide.  At least three times a week several aides around the facility would call off, leaving other aides to shuffle around the building.  This resulted in one CNA per hall – one aide per 20 residents!

In addition to short staffing, needed supplies were rationed.  We were allowed one cart with a set number of linens per hall.  If you ran out, that was it.  No extra linens were issued.  We were told to use pillowcases as washcloths if we ran out!  We were never sure why the linens were rationed, one supervising night nurse took a few CNAs to the supply room once, there were brand new boxes of washcloths stored.

Briefs were rationed as well.  Residents were given a basket with a number of briefs based on the number of changes that were marked on their care sheets in the past month.  The average number was six.  You may have a resident that needed eight changes but had six briefs.  We would need to raid the brief stash of another resident who in turn may need another resident’s briefs raided…at the end of the week if the number of briefs were over the ration limit, we could have our pay docked!n the number of changes that were marked on their care sheets in the past month.  The average number was six.  You may have a resident that needed eight changes but had six briefs.  We would need to raid the brief stash of another resident who in turn may need another resident’s briefs raided…at the end of the week if the number of briefs were over the ration limit, we could have our pay docked!

Finally, after many other such things, a group of CNAs decided it was high time to complain.  After the group called the county health department a surprise inspection came up.  It was interesting to see the look on the faces of the inspectors when an announcement came over the intercom for a doctor that did not work nor had ever worked for the home came, just as they had been informed.

Most nursing homes have a code for inspections, a few will announce over the intercom, “Call for Doctor ______”.  If this is heard, it means that all staff must be on their best professional behavior and should check all of the residents stat. This time the health inspectors knew the code and knew to go out on the floor ASAP.  This particular home was fined and several higher members of staff were let go.

In the weeks that followed the facility hired more CNAs, more nurses, and we finally received that boxes of washcloths stored in the basement.