Low wages and frequent injuries for nursing home employees in Pennsylvania

04102-box2A guest column by Bill Parkinson in the Carlisle Sentinel caught my eye.  The essence of Mr. Parkinson’s article is the pathetic nature of the low wages paid to nursing home employees.

There’s clearly something terribly askew about a system wherein the individuals we trust to care for those we love aren’t paid a living wage.

That inequity speaks volumes — tearfully sad volumes — about our priorities, our respect for our relatives and ourselves.

How right he is.

I represent and have represented many nursing home employees, usually LPNs and CNAs.  They work long hours, provide essential services, and care about the residents, our parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, etc . . . Their wages are low and hours long.   More striking, as Mr. Parkinson points out, is the fact we here in Pennsylvania having a booming nursing home industry with no sign of any downtown anytime soon.  Pennsylvania ranks in the Top 5 in senior citizen population, thanks to senior citizen tax breaks on various types of retirement income.  In my practice, I see the financial struggles of these hard working individuals.  Not only do they have seemingly difficult jobs, but they struggle to provide their families anywhere close to a sustainable income.

That is only one side of the picture though.

Over the years, I’ve represented many LPNs and CNAs because of work injuries.   Injuries are frequent in these facilities.  Sadly, nursing homes frequently deny work injuries and force  employees to fight for benefits, which many times leaves them at home and injured and and with absolutely no income while they litigate their claim.  Time after time, I see back, neck, and shoulder injuries from lifting patients or from stopping patients from falling.  I have one client who was lifting a patient according to company protocols, with the patient’s arms around her neck, but, unfortunately, the patient lifted her feet, putting all the the weight and pressure on my client’s back, resulting in a severe back injury.  Yet, the nursing home denied the injury.  I see slip and falls of employees because of fluids, such as urine, on the floor in the patient’s room.  I see multiple injuries where patient’s attack LPNs or CNAs, such as kicking and punching them, which results in numerous and various types of injuries.

Many of these injuries are avoidable by having better training programs on lifting and moving patients, safer policies and protocols, reducing overtime, paying better wages to reduce frequent turnover, and adding more staff to staff depleted shifts.  In fact, several of the injuries I have seen can be directly blamed to staffing shortfalls.  Given the money these facilities earn, that’s a down right shame, but all too frequent.  As you can see by this link, nursing assistants rank at the top in terms of days missed due to work injuries, even above construction workers and truck drivers.   According to a study from RTI, a staggering 60% of certified nursing assistants suffer work injuries.  That’s truly staggering.

Lifting, bathing or handling residents, resident aggression and accidents involving facility equipment led the causes of injury among CNAs. Of those who were injured, 65.8 percent reported being injured more than once in the past year, 16 percent required a transfer to light duty work and 24 percent were unable to work because of their injury.

If you are a CNA or LPN in Central Pennsylvania and have been hurt on the job, contact Mooney & Associates right away.  We will fight hard for you and make sure you get all the workers compensation benefits that you are entitled to.  Our consultations are FREE, it costs you nothing.  You don’t need to fight alone. Call us at 1-877-632-4656 or visit us on the web at Mooney4law.com.

Mark Buterbaugh

Attorney representing injured workers and Social Security Disability clients in Pennsylvania and Maryland.