Minnesota Nursing Aides Have Little or Sometimes No Training on Serious Care Needs
One care aide was frozen in fear in the living room of a home in St. Paul. Her patient was a quadriplegic man that she did not know well. He was gasping for air, his throat was blocked and his eyes rolled back into his head. Nothing in the one hour of training (nearly no training) that the aide had received prepared her for this scenario.
Fearing that the man was about ready to lose his life, the woman fumbled with a suctioning machine. She had never used one before, but turned it on and inserted the tube into his throat. She recounts that she was terrified because she had this man’s life in her hands and had no idea what she was to do.
This is a scenario that plays out every single day in Minnesota and throughout the country. Care aides are thrust into life-and-death situations without the training and with hardly any supervision. They perform a wide range of complex medical tasks from inserting feeding tubes to cleaning out infections and monitoring IV fluids. These are tasks that were only exercised in nursing homes and hospitals by highly trained medical professionals.
Many care aides say that they feel overwhelmed because they are underqualified, so they struggle to help their patients with their disabilities and illnesses.
Aides Have No Training or Not Enough Training in Many Cases
In Minnesota, there are over 100,000 care assistances that serve nearly 40,000 patients that need their care. All a person has to do to become a certified caregiver is take a brief test online with questions that most children could answer correctly.
The Star Tribune interviewed over two dozen personal care attendants in a two month period and it was found that only one of them had received more than an hour of training from their agency. Many said they have appealed to their employers for more training and supervision, but were told that the state was not paying them enough to cover the expense.
This has left the caregivers to fend for themselves. What this does is increase the chances of medication errors, patient injuries, and situations where the caregiver may be faced with saving the patient’s life with very little experience in how to do so. Many times, the caregivers are forced to violate rules that are in place to protect vulnerable adults. In the interviews, unlicensed care attendants said they usually administer very powerful prescription medications, sterilize wounds, and they inject medications into the veins of patients. The state prohibits such practices from being performed by care assistances.
Many times, the employers are not aware of the risks that they take on because of the largely unsupervised caregivers. This is a pattern that is playing out all across the country when personal care agencies are supposed to employ qualified professionals. At some of the larger agencies, the professional staff oversees hundreds of patients and the aides are needed. Some personal care assistants say that they feel like they don’t exist as they express their needs and nothing is done.