Updated: Sep 21
Our friends and family living in nursing homes are some of our community’s most vulnerable members. They rely on caregivers for their daily needs and often take many medications to manage multiple conditions.
That’s why we must make sure that the environment is safe and individuals working in nursing homes are doing appropriate work. Everyone has an important role to play.
For example, nurses should be the ones administering medications. Yet there is a bill in the Legislature, sponsored by Rep. Ben Frederick, to allow nurse aides to take over that critical job of giving medications to patients.
There’s no question that nurse aides are an essential part of the care team. Their contributions should not be diminished. Even with the minimal additional training proposed, though, a nurse aide is simply not equipped with the advanced skills, training and education of a licensed practical nurse (LPN) or registered nurse (RN).
Nurses take college-level courses, pass a strenuous national exam, and have the clinical experience to understand the intricacies of today’s increasingly complex medications and their side effects. Nurses are trained to assess the whole patient, including reactions to medications.
It is a slippery slope when we start letting unlicensed employees do the work of licensed professionals. Again, I mean no disrespect to nurse aides. This legislation, though, seems to reflect a trend of shifting work to less qualified employees rather than solving the real problem.
It is the same mindset that says non-credentialed individuals should be allowed to be teachers. If there is a teacher shortage, let’s address that, not put lesser-qualified people in the classroom.
The same goes for medication administration in nursing homes. Not just anyone can do this. It involves administering complex medication regimens and continuing to assess and monitor the patient for reactions. Nurses are educated in critical thinking methods to catch problems before it’s too late. Nurse aides are not. Medication is a matter of safety for our nursing home residents.
Some say this bill is necessary because nurses are too busy. We all know that nursing homes make a lot of money. If nurses are too busy, the nursing home industry should pay enough to hire more. We should be supporting nurses, not giving part of their job away to less qualified workers.
I hope legislators see the error of their ways when it comes to this bill. Our loved ones deserve better.