The Chicago Occupational Accident Attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers Represent Injured Nursing Home Staff
Nursing Home staff typically has direct access to providing care and services to residents. Their duties often include communicating with the resident's family and friends. Based on the location of the facility and the preference of the nursing home owners, the staff members typically have various job titles and assorted responsibilities. However, nearly all assistants, aids and workers operate in unison as effective caregivers working as a team.
The ideal Nursing Home Staff member has specific traits that are necessary to provide the highest level of care. These traits and attributes include a heavy dose of patience, a high level of tact, and ever developing sensitivity to the challenges the elderly, disabled and rehabilitating face every day while under the care of others.
Staff members who work in a nursing facility are required to follow local, state and federal laws, regulations, procedures, and protocols. These aides receive training and are certified or licensed by state boards. The major direct care occupations involved in the nursing home industry for providing assistive care include nursing assistants, nurse aides, licensed practical nurses, and nurse coordinators. In many incidences, one staff member will complete the duties of another when necessary. However, each occupation has a unique and distinct role in the Home to provide quality care ensure that every resident's needs are being met.
Nursing aides (nursing assistants) typically provide basic care for nursing home residents including providing hygiene assistance, bed-to-wheelchair transfers, and ensuring the resident lives in a clean and sterile environment.
Nursing Home Staff Hazards
While nursing homes provide a safe and happy environment for the residents, the nursing home assistants and aides face serious hazards in their work environment. The most common hazards include:
- Musculoskeletal Disorders – Nursing assistants and nurse aides are required to lift and transfer patients every day. Their job duties can quickly produce serious injuries including back strains, pulled ligaments, sprains or other debilitating neck, back, shoulder and hip problems. OSHA provides a variety of recommendations on how to minimize the potential for developing musculoskeletal disorders by using effective ergonomic solutions.
- Blood-borne Pathogen Exposures – The nursing staff must follow universal precautions to avoid needlestick injuries and exposure to blood-borne pathogens. OSHA estimates that at least 5 million healthcare industry workers are exposed every year to blood-borne pathogens including hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Needlestick injuries are also a serious concern when poked, punctured or cut by sharps and other objects including used and needles. Following universal precautions can prevent contact with infectious materials including blood.
- Workplace Violence – Resident-to-resident violence is a common occurrence in most nursing homes, which often places the employees in the middle of serious, life-threatening violence. The nurse and nursing aides must receive adequate training to recognize workplace violence before it escalates into an uncontrollable event. Job-related violence has risen significantly in the nursing home industry in recent years which has made a significant negative impact on social service workers and caregivers. Employees must be trained on the facility's violence prevention plan, keep accurate records and evaluate the change in behaviors of residents and learn what to do as a post-incident response to ensure the safety of all residents, employees, doctors and the nursing staff is maintained.
- Slips, Trips, and Falls – Nursing home caregivers are constantly exposed to bodily fluids, beverages and other liquids that are spilled on the floor, leading to serious slip, trip and fall injuries. Every worker is responsible for ensuring that the floors remained clean and dry, passageways and aisles remain clear and unobstructed, and floors are prepped with non-skid surface wax to minimize the potential for serious injuries.
- Contagious, Infectious Diseases – Nursing assistants are routinely exposed to highly contagious infectious diseases including Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C-diff). Nursing Home Staff Workers are constantly exposed to numerous multi-drug-resistant organisms, even after receiving routine vaccinations as required by law.
- Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals and Drugs – Maintaining a safe and sanitized environment requires heavy duty hazardous chemicals that are used by the housekeeping and laundry departments. Also, many nursing facilities have portable x-ray machines that must be used properly to minimize dangerous radiation exposure to nurses and nursing aides who might be near the harmful radioactive energy.
- Providing Baths and Showers – Nursing aides are exposed to a potential hazard that could include chronic or acute back injuries from lifting, moving, or reaching residents who are unable to reposition without assistance. When turning and repositioning a resident in bed, or providing a shower or bath, the worker tends to perform their duties in awkward postures. Many of these problems can be avoided by using a gait belt, shower chair, and mechanical lifting equipment.
- Dietary-Related Injuries – Nursing Home staff members who work in the kitchen and provide food and beverages to the residents face the potential hazards of suffering serious injuries caused by lifting, reaching, and repetitive tasks movement as a routine part of their job duty. Working in awkward positions can cause significant muscle strains, tendinitis, bursitis, shoulder and back injuries, and rotator cuff injury. Repetitive motion over months or years through stooping, chopping, and cutting can cause significant hand disorders including carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.
Nursing Home Staff's Wages
The annual employment data maintained by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics for the year 2016 revealed that there were 30,150 Nursing Home Staff members employed in the Chicago, Naperville and Arlington Heights metropolitan area. These statistics reveal that Nursing Home Staff member earned on average $13.35 per hour, or $27,760 every year. This job-related income is nearly identical to national averages. See Chart
Nursing Home Staff Injuries
According to the US Bureau of Labor statistics, the injury rate for workers in nursing homes, who are predominantly female, is significantly higher than those employed in manufacturing occupations and construction jobs. Also, many of these employees work long hours and extended shifts due to short staffing because of the increased demand of the elderly, rehabilitating and disabled requiring the highest level of caregiving.
In 2013, an Ohio husband of a deceased nurse filed a lawsuit claiming that's wife was work to death and that her employer knew the long hours were killing her. However, the woman died in a car accident in March of that year while coming home following a twelve-hour shift. Her place of employment was "regularly understaffed" which caused many of the nurses in Nurses Aide's to work through their breaks. Most were required to pick up additional shifts to ensure there was adequate staffing when needed.
A Government Relations Director working for National Nurses United stated that "chronic understaffing is rampant through hospitals around the country. It is probably the single biggest issue facing nurses nowadays, and it does not only affect the nurses but patient health as well." The lawsuit is based on the premise that the wife was overworked, which contributed to her death. The documentation filed in court claims that the nurse's supervisor and others were aware of the staffing issues but did nothing to change or correct the problem.
Avoiding Injuries and Illnesses
Even though many Nursing Assistants and Nurses Aides fill their occupation is highly rewarding, the exposure to various risks could produce life-altering consequences. It is important to follow certain specific procedures and protocols to avoid serious illness or injuries on the job. Some of these include:
- Clean Your Hands – Washing hands regularly, and using sanitizing lotions, can help minimize the potential spread of infection in the nursing home environment. The protocol states that washing both hands is a number one rule to avoid becoming sick.
- Use the Best Equipment – The nursing facility should provide the best Hoyer lift and transfer equipment to ensure that caregivers avoid job-related injuries. The lift using a gait belt when lifting a patient can minimize the potential risks of routinely lifting heavy patients from an awkward position. Many Nurses and Nurses' Aides avoid using the time-consuming lift. However, making only a single wrong move can cause a lifetime of chronic injury and pain.
- Practice Optimal Body Mechanics – Learning how to identify serious hazards in the workplace and using optimal body mechanics can help create a safer working environment. When debris is cluttering the aisleway, pick it up instead of stepping over the problem. It out only creates a clean environment, it eliminates the potential of another employee, co-worker, resident or guest from slipping and falling. Optimal mechanics also includes the need to wear supportive shoes with non-skid soles and avoid repetitive tasks while hunching over, moving arms and wrists, or bending over.
- Speak up – Ask for help from coworkers and colleagues whenever dealing with a potentially violent resident or needing assistance to move something or someone. Statistics prove that it is much safer to transfer a resident from bed to wheelchair or wheelchair to the toilet using two people instead of one.
- Get All Your Vaccinations – Caregivers are required to be vaccinated for the flu and other diseases. Receiving a vaccine is effective at protecting yourself from serious harm while preventing the spread of infection to other residents, family members, visitors, colleagues, and coworkers.
- Get Pathogenic Immunizations – The law requires that every caregiver receives immunization shots for hepatitis B, the measles, mumps, diphtheria, tetanus, influenza, and rubella. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that every caregiver receives vaccinations to resist highly infectious blood-borne pathogens that are known to harm and kill innocent victims.
- Practice Safe Needle Protocols – Every year, almost 400,000 caregivers suffer sharp-related and needlestick-related injuries. That number represents more than 1000 needlestick and sharp injuries every day. Never recap a used needle, but instead dispose of it using nursing home protocols and Sharp's containers to avoid a needlestick puncture wound.
- Wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – It is never a wise decision to take a shortcut to protect yourself against blood-borne pathogens, especially when exposed to Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile (C-diff). Instead, wear the appropriate blood, grounds, eye protection, face mask and other items necessary to place a barrier between the resident's body fluids and your skin and eyes.
Maintaining good physical health and getting plenty of sleep every night can reduce fatigue and create good psychological and sociological support, which is much-needed in a caregiving environment. Staying in shape, eating healthy and exercising routinely can maximize your immune system and help you avoid many of the common pitfalls associated with providing care to the elderly, disabled, and rehabilitating.
Let Us Assist You in Filing Your Claim
Our law firm assists injured Nursing Home Staff get compensation under the IL Worker's Compensation Act and through civil lawsuits. We provide Free Case Reviews and a No-Win/No Fee guarantee.
If you were injured in a job-related accident or suffered an illness or exposure, you are likely entitled to receive workers compensation. The reputable attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers (888-424-5757) can help you determine if you are also entitled to receive additional monetary recovery from third parties as well. Our lawyers will do everything possible to ensure you receive maximum value for your claim. Our work includes exploring every legal option including how to prove a third party personal injury case. While you might be limited in the amount your family can receive through worker's compensation, a personal injury claim for compensation has no limit.
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