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STUDY: Nurse Aide Absenteeism and Nursing Home Quality Are Associated

February 18, 2014

A recent study published online by The Gerontologist in January 2014 found an association between absenteeism of nurse aides and quality of care in nursing homes.

In the study, “Influence of Nurse Aide Absenteeism on Nursing Home Quality,” researchers examined whether absenteeism affected four quality indicators: physical restraint use, catheter use, pain management, and pressure sores.

They found that high levels of nurse aide absenteeism correlate with poor performance on all four indicators examined.

These quality indicators for long-term nursing home stays were selected because they have been shown in other studies to be “sensitive to care processes and staffing characteristics,” the researchers report.

They explain that they chose to examine nurse aides because they are the “most numerous caregivers in nursing homes” and provide an “estimated 80 percent (or more) of the care.” Additionally, these workers have “occupational and personal challenges,” many of which have been found to influence absenteeism, the authors write.

The average rate of nurse aide absenteeism — “call-offs” — was reported to be 9.2 percent the week prior to when the survey was completed by nursing homes administrators.

Absenteeism was defined as not working when scheduled to do so for reasons such as illness, injury, or medical problems; child care problems; and other family or personal obligations. Being out for vacation, personal days, holidays, labor disputes, or maternity leave was not considered to be absenteeism for the study.

A total of 3,941 nursing homes participated in the survey, which was mailed to facilities in 2008.

While there is evidence that absenteeism is associated with “increased costs and negative outcomes” in acute care settings, this is the first study to examine how absenteeism affects nursing homes, the authors write.

“The influence on quality was persuasive and in many cases of significant magnitude,” they concluded.

— by Deane Beebe

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