What Should I Do If I Am Over-Burdened in My Nursing Home Work Environment?Mar. 15, 2018

understaffing at nursing home

By Melissa Heinlein, Esq.

Lately I have been working with Minnesota nurses including RNs, LPNs, and CNAs who describe their work environments as hectic, under-staffed, and offering poor supervision. Often, these are descriptions of our work environments at our Minnesota nursing homes and assisted living facilities. You nurses have a demanding job, both physically and emotionally. We appreciate your work and want to be sure that you are protecting your patients and your license if you are working in such a facility.

If you have chosen to work in this field, chances are that you are strong, patient, and fueled by compassion. Unfortunately, chances are also that you are exhausted, under-appreciated, and ready for a long, hot bath. Additionally, these work environments can be a recipe for mistakes, including medication errors, improper documentation, accidental patient harm, or incompatibility with other staff. Sometimes, a mistake, even if ultimately due to lack of adequate staffing or support, can land nurses in trouble with their employer, the Board of Nursing, or even the Minnesota Department of Health.

If you are working at a facility where you feel the residents may be at risk, you may have a duty to report this to the Minnesota Department of Health or the Minnesota Board of Nursing. Remember, when you became licensed, you became a mandatory reporter pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 626.556 and §626.557. In some circumstances, you may be obligated to speak up about your working conditions not only to ensure patient safety, but also protect yourself from liability.

Unfortunately, nurses faced with this type of work environment most often eventually make a mistake. This could result in termination from employment and/or being served with allegations from the Minnesota Board of Nursing. In fact, if you are terminated or resign from a nursing job, the facility is almost always required to report it to the Minnesota Board of Nursing pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 148.263 Subd.2., which will result in an investigation into your practice by the board. And, while the Board of Nursing recognizes that some working environments are more challenging than others, they still expect that their nurses will recognize and report situations that are unsafe for the patients and nurses. More times than we can count, our clients wish they would have called us sooner.

If you have a question about whether you should report a facility or provider, or if you receive a letter of allegations from the Minnesota Board of Nursing or the Department of Human Services, call us at 612-333-LORD (5673) for a free consultation. At Lord + Heinlein, we are your powerful legal voice.

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