WESA content partner Public Source is reporting a problem in the nursing-home industry. Experts say frequent overtime is common and it has the potential to compromise the quality of care, leaving fatigued caregivers in situations that could have serious consequences.
We talk with guest Halle Stockton, a reporter for Public Source, Dennis Biondo, Director of County-owned Kane Regional Centers and Joe Angelelli, a gerontologist and assistant professor at Robert Morris University.
Stockton explains that her story emerged from a right-to-know request, which revealed that the Kane Regional Centers have the highest amount of overtime payouts and employees in the county. Some health care providers, Stockton found, work an average of 80 hours a week for 50 weeks or more.
According to Biondo, overtime work is necessary in part because of the 24/7 nature of nursing home care. “Someone always has to be there,” he explains. This means when employees call off, others must respond by working overtime. Many healthcare workers, Biondi says, are glad to have the additional hours providing care and supplementing their income.
Angelelli expresses concern about the impact of overtime labor on the quality of care provided to the elderly. He references past studies that show how excessive overtime results in poor outcomes such as pressure ulcers or pneumonia. While many eldercare facilities have high turnover rates, the Kane Regional Centers have relatively low rates of turnover
He discusses how for some employees, overtime is a way to make ends meet but can lead to problems:
“We shouldn’t begrudge them that opportunity, but we need to think about how we need to organize the care in such a way that it’s not leading to these folks working back to back 16 hour shifts because there’s just no doubting that’s leading to errors of judgment and not the best organizational culture.”