Question Of The Week: Consistent Staffing or Flexible Scheduling?

One of the best things we’re seeing from the Culture Change movement involves how CNA’s are assigned to the residents they care for. The consistent staffing model has gained some popularity over the past few years. Research shows how this model benefits residents and aides.

Fast forward a couple years and some challenges are presenting themselves.
In my region, hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities have faced a shortage of nurses and aides. In order to attract these skilled professionals, most facilities up here are moving away from the standard nursing schedule model to a more flexible one. Gas prices and travel time play into this.

Instead of scheduling staff to work the typical 4 days on, one day off, every other weekend model, where I work we have staff working all sorts of different hours. Many are choosing to work two double shifts and one 8 hour shift per week. Others have opted to work three 12 hour shifts per week. Not all of these positions require weekend work either since we have a group of staff who work two 16 hour days each Saturday and Sunday.

This means different aides working every day.

So, consistent staffing is almost impossible to achieve. Rarely does an aide work two days in a row. Nurses are doing the same thing.

Many of my co workers travel from distant towns to my facility to work the weekend only; they stay at a small local hotel (paid for by my work). The benefit of this for my co workers is using far less gas which is expensive. My employer is happy knowing the units are staffed for the weekends. Other than the weekend staff, no one is expected to work two 16 hour days in a row. Nurses are offered the popular Baylor program: Work the 32 hours each weekend and get an 8 hour bonus which equates to 40 hours pay.

Facilities have to make tough choices. Either keep the strict medical schedule model and have a shortage of nursing staff, or, offer flex hours and have adequate staffing each shift.

How does this all effect residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities? They don’t have a core staff. There is NO one CNA who is assigned to them on a daily basis.

My own schedule has changed at my request, due to the price of gas. I was spending a quarter on my earnings filling up the gas tank, just to get to work five days a week. Now I work two double shifts and one 8 hour shift, a week. Five shifts in 3 days. I have saved a respectable amount of my income by making this change.

I like the schedule in many aspects:
-I have four days a week off to be with my family and tend to home and hobbies. I’m not nearly as stressed and tired as I was when working the 5 day schedule.
-I’m saving gas, for sure- but also wear and tear on my vehicle.
-When I am working, I keep the same assignment for the long (16 hour) day. Those residents I assist with getting am cares done, I also assist with doing the pm cares as well. If we don’t get the bath done in the morning, we know to fit it in at night. My assignment is consistent for the entire two shifts and my residents and their families really like that. We haven’t seen an increase in falls or skin issues.

This week we ask the Questions:

What kinds of schedule options do others have? Is flex scheduling allowed? If so, what kinds of shifts and hours are typical?

What’s more important? Having enough staff who may be working flexible shifts, or not having enough staff who always work the typical nursing model schedule?

Question Of The Week: Falls & Responsibility

At work today I got into trouble because one of my residents’ fell. This man is independent and never needs our help. He can do his own care- showers, dressing, walking, meals, toileting…the works. As far as I know he has never fallen before. I was busy with one of my other residents who requires total cares. I was in the middle of bathing her when the nurse came in to tell me the man fell and why wasn’t I with him? After I finished up with my lady’s care, I was told to fill out a report which wanted to know what I COULD HAVE DONE to prevent the fall; THE LAST TIME RESIDENT WAS TOILETED; THE LAST MEAL consumed- all things that had nothing to do with this fall!!

Later, I was written up for the fall. I told the DON that everyone is responsible for ALL the residents on the hall I was working. Yes, he was assigned to me, but when I am busy with other residents, my co workers should step up and cover for me. What do you think of this?

You should not have been written up, in my opinion.

Every resident must be assigned to a CNA. It’s law. No way out of that. Every aide accepts their assignment and therefore responsibility for the residents on it. Each CNA is responsible for her assigned residents and the unit, as a whole, cannot do this.

It’s tough when bad things happen to good aides, though.

Did you read the man’s care plan? Are you absolutely sure he is independent in his cares? If so, did you check in with him to see if he needed any help, with anything? I think sometimes we assume these residents who are able to do their own care never need ANY help- and this isn’t always the case. When doing this check in, it’s always a good to ask when they’re planning to get up; what they’re bathing plans are and the like. This way, you can have some awareness that Mr. Smith is going to be up and about around 9am, and might need someone to just peek at him.

Of course this is where team work comes into the picture. Every time an aide is going to be tied up for awhile with residents, its always a GOOD thing to let as many peers know where you’re at. And include the nurse with this info as well. If you’re so inclined (and I would be) I would ask peers to keep an eye and ear out for your other residents…especially if I was going to be tied up for a longer period than usual with the other resident. A good charge nurse would make sure your other residents are covered as well. It’s a balancing act though: Asking every aide to cover the others’ residents every time personal care is being performed is just not practical.

As for the report: It’s called an Incident Report. The questions asked do indeed have everything to do with the assessment of a fall. By asking you what you could have done to prevent this fall, the answers you provide are supposed to be helpful to prevent a repeat in the future.

Did you know most residents fall because they are trying to get to the bathroom? If they’re hungry they might be trying to rush out to a meal. Usually there are other questions too on these reports- about all sorts of things. Often we don’t know the prior condition of any resident when they have fallen without a witness.

It’s very important for CNA’s to answer these things honestly…however….when we’re written up it takes away the desire for CNA’s to have any respect for these reports. These things should never be used as a means for punishment. When independent residents fall, it is NOT the direct fault of the aides. It was caused by something else. It IS up to management to figure out why the fall occurred- but by placing blame on the aides they are short changing this process. This is another example of autocratic management style- which isn’t helpful. And, I have to wonder if nursing homes with high fall rates have these kinds of managers.

I’m sorry you got written up. Of all the things CNA’s don’t have control over, the FALL tops the list. The work loads alone should tell all that it’s impossible to be everywhere at the same time- or even once an hour. A good fall prevention program begins with a trusting environment where no one is disciplined for falls unseen. Once that is in place, true prevention

Question Of The Week: They Won’t Let Us Call Out!

At my facility we’re not allowed to call out! Lately there’s been a lot of call outs and even more aides quitting. So we work short all the time. A couple aides have hurt their backs too cause we’re short all the time. Anyway I got the “bug” last week and had a fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. I felt horrible. I couldn’t eat anything; I couldn’t keep anything down. I called work to let them know I would be out for my shift and they put me through to the DON. who told me to come in for work, to report to her prior to clocking in so she could assess whether I was too sick to work. If I didn’t follow this directive, I would be terminated. SO I went to work and the DON took my temp (101.2)- she gave me Tylenol and a couple spoonfuls of Pepto Bismol; she told me report for duty. If I didn’t feel any better in an hour to come back and see her.

Is this legal???

Your email tells me your employer is having a hard time with staffing. It appears that the place is going through a downward spiral of problems and management is part of that. When an aide shows up for work, sick with fever and infection, she exposes not only the residents, but her co workers as well.

It’s very likely more than a few will catch the illness. So, it spreads like a fire. As each aide comes down with the bug and misses work, management feels it has to do something to curb what it perceives to be an abuse of attendance policy. Management should be prepared for a staffing crunch knowing a virus is going around. But, this facility’s management is punishing the very people who are out in the battlefields where the germs are located. It’s old fashioned and autocratic.

Instead of being proactive, the DON is being REACTIVE and in a very negative manner. Her actions are telling her staff that she doesn’t trust their judgment on their own bodies health. She is also telling them she has no respect for them. A warm body on the schedule is all that matters, even if that body’s temp is 101.

The Legality of this:
If this is a policy, it must be written as such.

I called a lawyer friend and relayed this scenario and she gave me the following advice: Is the DON a doctor or a Nurse Practitioner?? If not, she is straying from her nurse practice laws. Nurses cannot diagnose illnesses, diseases, disorders and the like. Perhaps she is sending staff to a doctor who is legally licensed to perform a medical assessment. She would be smart to do this. She should NEVER give staff ANY medications without a doctors’ order. She is putting her license on the line by doing so. She knows this. And is counting that you don’t know this.

Legally this practice is not advised for management. They are risking a discrimination lawsuit if this “policy” doesn’t cover ALL employees of this facility- so, when the dietary aide or the cook or the maintenance man calls out, the DON/Management must apply this same requirement towards them. They too must come in, be assessed, and determined if they’re “healthy” enough to work or not. And this would mean doing so 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Even on holidays and weekends.

What To Do?
If you find yourself too ill to perform the duties of your job, you can and should call out. However, you should also make every attempt to get better or try to reduce your symptoms so you can work. In other words, do take Tylenol/Advil to get the fever down. Immodium will end just about every episode of diarrhea. After this, if you still feel too sick, call out. Make sure you follow the policy- most facilities require 2 or 4 hours notice.

Have your spouse or a friend make the call for you if you’re concerned with being harassed by the DON. Instruct your spouse/friend to take a message but to be firm: You will not be showing up for work. Make sure your reasons are given: Details- fever, vomiting, ect. and the actions you have taken to try to make it better. Then call your doctor and make an appointment. You’ll need to be assessed and diagnosed properly; and the MD will need to write you a note excusing you from work. Often, this note will include actual dates you are not recommended to work.

A doctors note will not protect your job.
We need to know this and not rely upon it. The note does give credibility to you though: You’re putting the effort into seeing the doctor to find out what is wrong and get better; you’re paying money to do in most cases; you want to show your employer you weren’t goofing off, ect.

You can still be terminated unless you’re a member of a union which has rules on this.

I would not wish to continue employment at a facility where this practice occurs. I would leave on my own free will and seek employment at another place with more enlightened management.