As Philadelphia nursing home negligence lawyers, we cannot overestimate the importance of proper nursing home staffing levels as a way to prevent abuse and neglect. A 2004 study from the National Institutes of Health said the nursing homes with the lowest ratios of patients to staff performed significantly better on metrics measuring quality of care. Like all workers, nurses and aides work best when they aren't so overloaded that they neglect duties or lose their tempers. But unlike most workers, overworked nursing home staffers can have a dramatic negative effect on vulnerable people's quality of life.
Staffing levels determine how much time each patient gets with a nursing home staff member. When staff members don't have the time to give patients the attention they deserve, even the well-meaning ones may forget things. This can lead to serious health consequences right away, as with missed medication, or over time, as with bedsores or dehydration. The stress of overwork can also lead to overt abuse by staff members who feel resentful against the home or impatient with difficult residents. And nursing homes that chronically understaff may fill holes in their rosters with temporary workers, who aren't always subjected to the same rigorous background checks. A recent Los Angeles Times article found that temporary nurses were hired despite criminal backgrounds, having been fired or having had their licenses pulled in other states.
Federal law requires nursing homes to maintain adequate staff levels and ensure that an RN is on duty at least eight hours a day, although it does not specify a patient/staff ratio. Unfortunately, nursing home staffing levels are still a problem because it's expensive to hire and retain a high-quality workforce. Faced with these costs, some homes' owners choose to skimp -- putting their residents at serious risk. Our Pennsylvania nursing home abuse attorneys handle numerous cases that stem from a lack of adequate attention and care for residents' needs.