Patient Abuse by Nursing Assistants

Across the United States abuse of patients by their carers, often they are nurse assistants, is all too common and a tragedy that could be avoided, but with high demand for health care workers and shortages of staff, abuse continues to be a problem with too many being employed in the industry who by rights shouldn’t be anywhere near patients or people at risk. Patient abuse takes many forms and in most cases action can be taken, either by the employer or the police. Being aware of what patient abuse is will enable you to identify abuse when it happens, and help protect your patients from colleagues who shouldn’t have access to them

As medical care costs continue to rise most employers are adjusting their staffing levels to balance the number of higher paid nurses they employ with lower paid nurse assistants. The tragedy is that many people who should never work in health care are attracted to the industry by the demand for nurse assistants and the relatively low cost of entry. Those who lack empathy, or who have anger management problems are most likely to abuse their patients either knowingly or not, however all abuse needs to be stopped.

Prior to entering the profession all nurse assistants should be screened for potential abuses through background checks, but often these are cursory if they’re performed at all owing to the cost and demands of finding staff to fill positions that may have been vacant for some time. The types of background checks normally undertaken only include criminal reports, driving record, credit checks etc, the aim being to identify people who have a history of bad behavior which is considered an indicator of possible future problems.

Background checks however may not tell all of the story about a person, it’s hard to find negative reports for a person fresh out of college or high school who has passed the state nurse assistant exam sine they are too young to have a history and convictions as a minor are frequently not included in a persons adult background check. In addition, many people who go on to abuse their patients have no prior arrests, after all most abuse takes the form of anger or neglect, which are not usually reported or considered serious enough to be reported in a lot of instances, or are easily covered up by excuses.

This is why continual monitoring of the nurse assistant’s behavior around patients is so important. Abuse can take many forms and it can be difficult to spot. Clear guidelines that determine what actions are acceptable in specific situations do seem controlling and do restrict the nurse assistant at times, simple games or lively banter between the patient and the nurse assistant can be taken out of context and referred to an ethics committee for example, and in most cases against the wishes of the patient and the nurse assistant, but following procedure which is imposed to protect the patient and the employer is worthwhile if it makes it easier to spot genuine abuse when it occurs.

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