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Season 4, Episode 139

Improved staffing ratios the first step to better patient care



Guest Name:

Matt Yarnell

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Service Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania President Matt Yarnell joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast and talked about a new law that updated staffing ratios for Pennsylvania nursing homes. He also spoke about prior staffing levels and where the implementation of the new law stands.

After three years of lobbying lawmakers to improve staffing ratios at nursing homes, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania saw its efforts pay off. A new bill passed and went into effect June 1 to require improved staffing ratios and defines the maximum number of patients a nurse can care for on a shift. Before the new staffing regulations were implemented, on average, Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) took care of anywhere from 30 and 40 patients a shift, which was far too many to provide proper care, Yarnell said. These staffing issues are largely due to a lack of federal regulations, something Yarnell believes is the next step to improve national staffing issues.

When Yarnell began working as a nurse in 1998, Pennsylvania required nursing home residents to receive at least 2.7 hours of care in a 24-hour period. This regulation stayed in effect until the pandemic, when they removed this requirement altogether. As a result, many nurses were forced to provide care to upwards of 50 or 60 residents a shift. Yarnell cited this moment as the event that led to nurses actively seeking improved staffing regulations.

The new regulations are now being rolled out in increments, as the old standard had a minimum of 2.7 hours of care in a 24-hour period compared to the new standard of 4.1 hours of care in the same timeframe. In year one, the requirements for patients cared for by a nurse dropped to a maximum of 12 during the daytime and 20 at night. In year two, the staffing requirements will be 10 residents per CNA during the day, 11 for an evening shift and 15 for night shifts. Along with these staffing improvements, nursing homes received an additional $600 million in funding to subsidize wage increases for staff to at least $17 per hour, Yarnell added.

Listen to the entire episode to learn more.

America’s Work Force is the only daily labor podcast in the US and has been on the air since 1993, supplying listeners with useful, relevant input into their daily lives through fact-finding features, in-depth interviews, informative news segments and practical consumer reports. America’s Work Force is committed to providing an accessible venue in which America's workers and their families can hear discussion on important, relevant topics such as employment, healthcare, legislative action, labor-management relations, corporate practices, finances, local and national politics, consumer reports and labor issues.

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