Working in nursing facilities—what nearly one in every ten registered nurses does—is an increasingly in-demand specialty, especially as the country grapples with the healthcare needs of an aging population.
If you’re seeking to work in long-term care nursing, this blog post will help you find the right nursing home by showing you the signs of good and bad nursing homes. Recognizing these signs will support you in knowing what to look for when you’re interviewing or working in long-term care settings and give you the confidence to walk away if necessary.
Red Flags in the Workplace
Working as a nurse can already be stressful enough. Spotting red flags in a workplace will help you decide whether you should stay or leave a position before it becomes a toxic, unhealthy workplace and a cause of significant stress. Here are some nursing home red flags to keep an eye out for as you visit various facilities:
- Turnover is high. Ask about staff turnover. If it’s high, this signifies that something at the facility isn’t quite right. Take the time to find out why turnover may be high and what managers are doing, if anything, to change this. High turnover doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t accept a position at a nursing facility, but it is something to be mindful of, as it signals issues within the workplace.
- Call lights stay on for extended periods. If possible, observe the call lights outside residents’ doors. Are there any which are on and unattended for long periods? How long does it take to answer a call light? Nursing facilities should ensure their residents are being cared for as requested. Ignoring call lights or taking a lengthy amount of time to respond to a resident is a red flag as it indicates understaffing.
- It doesn’t provide a range of activities for residents. Socializing and staying active are essential aspects of health and emotional and mental well-being. Facilities should provide residents with opportunities to socialize with peers and participate in appropriate activities based on age and abilities. If the schedule of activities for residents seems lacking, this is a red flag.
- It does not serve residents quality food. Unfortunately, food quality standards in nursing homes can be so low that the food can contribute to residents’ ill health and demise. According to one study, some prisons spend more money feeding their residents than nursing homes, and the impact is devastating: Half of the residents in these facilities are malnourished. If the nursing facility you’re considering serves sub-par meals to its residents, it’s a sign of cost-cutting and is a cause for concern because of the effects we know low-quality food has on aged populations.
Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home
When choosing to accept a job offer or other contract in a nursing facility, ask yourself the following questions to find out if it’s the right fit for you:
- What is the ratio of staff to residents?
- How does the facility structure nurses’ shifts? Are your work hours flexible?
- What are the expectations around working on holidays?
- What support will you have on the job from nursing or healthcare assistants?
- What benefits, if any, will you have access to as a staff member?
- What activities does the facility offer to keep residents active and engaged? Would you be involved in these activities and, if so, to what extent?
- What security systems are in place to ensure residents are monitored and safe? Will you be monitored while on the job, and how?
- What is the reputation of the nursing facility? Aside from word of mouth, to better understand a facility’s reputation, conduct an online search and use words like “scam” or “illegal” alongside the facility’s name to find potential complaints or concerns.
- Have there been any lawsuits or out-of-court settlements involving the nursing home?
If you’re a nurse looking to work in a nursing home, following the above criteria will help you find a facility that treats its residents with care and respect—and chances are, they’ll do the same for you as a team member.
You’ll want to consider these questions alongside the compensation package and other factors, like your daily commute, to determine if this is the right nursing home work opportunity for you.
Signs of a Bad Nursing Home & Signs of a Good Nursing Home
The signs of a bad nursing home include the following:
- Residents are often tired, drowsy, or sleeping all the time as they are overmedicated.
- Residents show signs of abuse, such as unexplained bruising or injuries.
- Facilities are unsanitary.
- Meals are not healthy, nutritious, or filling.
- Residents are isolated and unable to participate in activities or socialize.
- Residents are losing mobility as they do not receive the support needed to move and keep active.
- Staff members and management do not take responsibility for the conditions at the facility and are avoidant or not open to feedback.
Good nursing homes tend to be the complete opposite. These facilities are transparent, friendly, and clean and have happy staff and residents.
Nursing homes can, unfortunately, be a source of infections among residents. There are an estimated 1 to 3 million infections that occur every year at nursing facilities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works to ensure facilities keep patients safe from infections by providing information on infections for clinical staff and residents as well as prevention tools and training. Any good nursing home will be able to answer your questions about infection control and share its protocols for avoiding and treating infections.
Things Nursing Homes Are Not Allowed to Do
Various national and state laws protect nursing and long-term care facilities. These nursing home laws and regulations ensure the following:
- Residents know and have access to their rights.
- Residents are not abused or exploited.
- Nursing facilities ensure residents’ quality of life and quality of care.
- Nursing facilities provide a range of medical, health, and wellness services.
- Protocols such as emergency preparedness are in place.
For more information on laws and regulations, you can conduct an online search specific to your state or consult a lawyer specializing in elderly care law.