As readers of this blog know, New York nursing homes, and nursing homes throughout the United States, have a legal duty of care to their residents. Unfortunately, many in our industry do not provide the care and safety that duty requires, and as a result, they face nursing home neglect lawsuits. These lawsuits can result in many issues for those nursing homes, like reputational damage, government sanctions, lawsuit costs, etc. But, how can nursing homes avoid these negligence claims?
Hiring and training qualified staff
First, as the old saying goes, you are only as strong as your weakest link, and for nursing homes, this means that most of these negligence claims stem from staff. As such, the best way to help is to hire and train qualified staff. Conduct intensive background checks, thorough interviews, have the necessary credentials and the appropriate level of experience to provide high quality service.
Do not stop there though. Keep the staff trained and educated. This education should focus on law changes and best practices to avoid infections, falls, abuse, how to handle emergencies, etc.
Even if your staff are the best in the industry, if you do not have adequate staffing levels, they will burn out. It is just a matter of time. This is why it is always best practice to not find the level of staffing that is required to minimally operate, but to staff according to state and federal staffing ratios with some additional staff. To reduce staff turnover and burnout, provide market or above-market pay, benefits, incentives, etc.
Communication is key
Next, ensure that you foster a culture of honest and open communication. You want your staff to feel comfortable reporting issues, errors and concerns that could affect your residents’ health and safety.
This culture should extend to your residents and their families as well. Make sure they know your facility wants their feedback and concerns.
Make sure that you document your records according to state and federal law. Your records should include assessments, diagnoses, treatments, etc. Make sure that your policies and procedures are in writing as well.
Monitoring and process improvement
Finally, your facility should have procedures in place to continually monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of your policies, procedures and the care and safety of your facility. Some standard monitoring indicators are resident satisfaction, fall rates, infection rates, health outcomes, etc. Of course, even if you do all of this, you could still (and probably will) face negligence lawsuits nonetheless.