Staffing & security issues plague nurses
Aug 28, 2013 / 2:24 pm
The head of the BC Nurses Association was in town Wednesday as part of her journey through the region to meet with members and tour health facilities.
Debra McPherson also made a stop in Vernon yesterday where a senior has been charged with murdering another client at the Polson Extended Care facility.
Upon hearing the news, McPherson says her first thoughts were how unfortunate the situation was for both families, and how the health authority has been slow to respond to problems of violence in senior care facilities around the province.
“In this case it was client on client. And I noticed that the head of the program in Vernon (the physician) said it was very rare, this patient on patient violence – I think he is misinformed,” said McPherson.
“It may not be fatal in all cases, but there are many cases where our nurses find a senior and another senior at each other or on each other in their long term care homes.”
In situations where a long term care facility houses dementia patients, the likelihood of these incidents rises because many of them have severe to very severe aggressive behaviors.
“We have nurses who have been literally beaten to a pulp,” she says, using the recent example of a nurse who was punched so hard in the sternum that she had to be taken to emergency.
“We know this is coming. People are living longer and more people are being institutionalized because families can’t cope with them. They’re unpredictable and in my view greater attention needs to be put on staffing in these facilities. Often they’re very understaffed, they’re not trained well in terms of how to deal with these types of clients.”
McPherson says she routinely hears the same complaints from staff during her tours, pointing out one facility in Armstrong that has four pods, each housing 20 patients. There is one licensed practical nurse and one care aid for each pod, but during the night there is only one LPN for all four pods.
“What I have heard from nurses around the region is they’re very concerned about this trend and the failure of the employer to realize that we now need to put into place new kinds of security,” she says.
“There’s no way nurses can be safe with those kind of staffing levels. We don’t have security guards; we don’t have access to police because, especially in smaller communities, it’s the RCMP who are either off duty or on the road some place.”
In the end, McPherson believes the problem stems from lack of funding as facilities try to get by with lower paid and less qualified staff.
“We have new nurses graduating from nursing school who cannot get jobs,” she says.
“They can get hired casual, but they cannot get regular employment. We went through a period in the last decade where (Interior Health) stripped its long term care (facilities) of licensed practical nurses or regular nurses and either replaced registered nurses with licensed practical or they’re now replacing both with care aides.”
During her stop in Vernon on Tuesday, McPherson said she routinely heard the same comments from nurses in that community. And at Polson Extended Care, workers are feeling under siege and they just want to be left alone, so they can be debriefed and move on from the "traumatic" incident.
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