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Lack of Training in Nursing Home Staff Can Lead to Preventable Emergency Hospitalizations

In every calendar year, roughly 25% of all the patients in a nursing home are transferred to a hospital or emergency room. There have been recent concerns within the healthcare community that transfer rates are higher than what they should be. A recently published study looks at the frequency of hospitalizations in New York nursing homes and what impact education programs can have on preventing transfers.

In the world of long term care, hospitalizations are not generally beneficial to the patient. Such events not only indicate a deterioration in patient health, but the actual act of transferring can put great strain on a person’s body, mind, and health: transportation, change in environment and people, miscommunications about treatment and care plans, etc. Communication between nursing facilities and emergency personnel/hospital staff is an area where much can slip through the cracks, resulting in worse care for the patient. An article that was published last year delves into the issues surrounding the lack of thorough communication involved in hospitalizations. The authors recommended that a more comprehensive documentation system be put into place and that verbal communication, to augment and explain written forms, be mandatory. In the present state of affairs, much information is lost between facilities as people fail to completely fill out transfer forms or are unable to understand the notes of the other facility. In such cases it is the patient’s quality of care that suffers and the already stressful process of transferring from facility to facility is made worse.

Considering the toll hospitalizations can take on the health of those in long-term sub-acute care, it is important for skilled nursing facilities to attempt to reduce any unnecessary or preventable transfers. The recent study of New York nursing homes reported that in using an education and training system, they were able to observably lower the rate of hospitalization. The program used is called INTERACT, “Interventions to Reduce Acute Care Transfers”. The main principles of this system are educating nursing home staff in early detection of problems and how to communicate and handle these issues in a timely fashion, before they become severe enough to need transfer to an emergency facility.

The lynchpin on this program is the education of employees in how to recognize problem symptoms and the correct responses to any such problems. The efficacy of the INTERACT program, which has been through multiple successful trials, speaks to the fact that good training systems for staff are not currently in place. The failure of a nursing home to adequately train staff violates the patient’s right to be cared for by knowledgeable and qualified care-givers, set down in Health and Safety Codes. Factors that can commonly contribute to failure to provide proper training to employees are understaffing and fiscal meanness.

In the situation discussed in the referenced study, untrained staff can lead to increased hospitalizations and miscommunications between facilities, which can have a great negative impact on the patient. And there are many other harms that can be inflicted upon residents in understaffed nursing homes. Conditions such as pressure sores are preventable with enough care and attention, but can become severe and very painful if a patient is not well-looked after or if the proper preventative measures are not carried out. Infection control is also greatly affected by staff numbers and education. Studies have shown that a great number of nursing home staff are not educated in basic infection prevention techniques, such as proper hand washing and sterilization. Lack of training in this area, along with low staffing levels, has been correlated with higher rates of preventable infections, such as scabies and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

Nursing homes are responsible for the health and safety of their patients. Failure to provide sufficient numbers of trained staff not only falls short of the duty of maintaining health, but can also actively put nursing home residents in danger of harm and injury. If you believe that your loved one is at risk, or has already suffered an injury because of a dangerous situation in a skilled nursing facility, please contact us today. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Ben Yeroushalmi are all specialists in nursing home neglect law. Through our past successes, we have learned the best ways of preparing cases for trial and will fight for your loved one’s rights from the very beginning until a just and agreeable solution has been reached. Tell us about your situation in a free consultation and find out what we can do to help you.