60 Percent of Nursing Assistants in Nursing Homes Incur Occupational Injuries

New research reveals that 60 percent of certified nursing assistants (CNAs) employed in nursing homes incur occupational injuries, which range from back injuries to cuts, black eyes, human bites and more.

"Work-related injuries are very common among CNAs working in nursing homes, but little is known about the nature and causes of these injuries," said Galina Khatutsky, a research analyst at RTI International and lead author of the study. "Our goal was to explore how the use of assistive equipment, job training, workplace environment and personal characteristics may affect injury rates."

Lifting, bathing or handling residents, resident aggression and accidents involving facility equipment led the causes of injury among CNAs. Of those who were injured, 65.8 percent reported being injured more than once in the past year, 16 percent required a transfer to light duty work and 24 percent were unable to work because of their injury.

Lifting Injuries

While lifting residents is one of the most commonly reported causes of injury, the majority of survey participants reported having access to lifting equipment and using it regularly. In fact, the study found that the availability and use of lifting equipment did not significantly change the likelihood of being injured, once individual characteristics are controlled for.

"One of our main goals was to examine the relationship between assistive equipment in nursing homes and workplace injuries among CNAs," Khatutsky said. "The findings indicate that simply having lifting equipment available may not bring the benefits that are expected from it."

The surveys also showed that certain groups of CNAs were more likely to report injuries. These included new workers and those who changed jobs more frequently, received lower wages, worked mandatory overtime and felt they had inadequate time to provide personal care. In contrast, CNAs who worked in facilities where they felt respected, valued and rewarded for their work were less likely to report an injury.

Workplace Interventions

Aside from the impact on workers' health, work-related injuries can negatively impact job satisfaction, contribute to job shortages and affect the overall quality of care provided by CNAs to more than 1.4 million nursing home residents across the country.

The authors suggest several interventions to improve the workplace environment could reduce the rates of CNA injury, including providing more comprehensive initial training for CNAs, reducing mandatory overtime, providing support to newly hired CNAs and making efforts to reduce job turnover.

The study, "Work-Related Injuries Among Certified Nursing Assistants Working in U.S. Nursing Homes," was conducted by researchers at RTI International and partially funded by the Retirement Research Foundation. The researchers analyzed data from the 2004 National Nursing Assistant Survey and National Nursing Home Survey, which are the most recent data available that combine responses from CNAs with information about their workplaces.

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