June 29, 2017
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This is the second in a series of articles that will highlight the ways in which Indiana laws protect negligent nursing homes and other wrongdoers, and in doing so, jeopardize the safety of Hoosiers.  .

understaffed nursing homes leave patients at risk

Nursing homes without registered nurses.

Patients are typically admitted to nursing homes because they are unable to live at home alone and require professional nursing care.  Yet contrary to common belief, nursing homes in Indiana are not required by law to have (and typically do not have) even one registered nurse on premises 24 hours a day.  Current federal regulations and Indiana state regulations require that a registered nurse be available at the nursing home for just eight hours a day.   This means that most of the time, the patient’s nursing care is delegated to other employees who are without the training and experience of a registered nurse, such as nurse aides.

The danger posed by this practice is a known one.  On July 31st, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky of Illinois introduced a bill in Congress to ensure that at least one RN is present 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in all nursing homes that receive Medicare funding.   While other states require an RN on site 24/7, Indiana does not.  Some states, such as Tennessee, Rhode Island, Hawaii and Connecticut, require a registered nurse onsite for all nursing homes, while other states such as California and New Jersey merely require nursing homes with a certain number of residents to have a registered nurse on site at all times.

 So why would Indiana law not require nursing homes to ensure that nursing home operators staff at least one registered nurse at all times in a nursing home full of patients who depend upon nursing care?  After all, the benefits of having a registered nurse present in the nursing home are clear.  Studies by the National Institute for Health have found that facilities with higher registered nurse staffing have fewer instances of patients developing life-threatening conditions, such as pressure sore (a.k.a. “bed sores”) and urinary tract infections.   Studies have even shown that care will improve and any increase in staffing costs is offset by a decrease in costs related to the health care complications from a lack of care.

 So again, why doesn’t Indiana law require nursing home operators to staff their nursing homes with registered nurses at all times?  Because the powerful nursing home industry does not want to pay for registered nurses.  They can staff the nursing home more cheaply with other staff members who have not undergone the training registered nurses have.

Yet as was discussed in our last article (“How Indiana Laws Protect Nursing Homes That Neglect and Kill Patients — Part 1”), the care provided by Indiana’s nursing home industry has ranked among the worst in the United States.  See for example, AARP Warns of Poor Performance By Indiana Nursing Homes and  Indiana Ranks Among Worst In Healthcare Quality and Patient Safety.)

Indiana’s nursing home industry profits handily off the promise that it will provide the necessary nursing care for Indiana’s most vulnerable residents.  We think it’s high time Indiana’s laws require Indiana’s nursing home industry to staff their nursing homes with a licensed registered nurse at all times.

If you believe you may have a potential nursing home lawsuit, the Powless Law Firm, P.C. would like to help. You can request a free case consultation today by calling us at 877-769-5377 or by submitting the free case consultation form by clicking below:

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Please share this article with those who have loved ones in an Indiana nursing home.

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