Patient care aides need better access to health care: NIOSH
Washington — Patient care aides – workers who provide basic care in health care settings – are more likely than other health care workers to smoke, be obese, get insufficient sleep and have lower levels of health care access, results of a recent NIOSH study show.
Using data from the 2013-2016 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, researchers assessed the prevalence of health care access and outcomes, along with health-related behaviors, among patient care aides in three settings: home health, hospitals and nursing homes. The aides were compared with registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses and non-health care clerical workers.
Only 34% of hospital aides, 46% of nursing home aides and less than 60% of home health aides received influenza vaccinations during the previous 12 months. These percentages are well below the Department of Health and Human Services’ goal to have 90% vaccination of health care personnel by 2020, as stated in the agency’s Healthy People 2020 report.
When compared with clerical workers, patient care aides had lower levels of health care access (i.e., having health insurance or a health care home, being able to afford medical visits, and obtaining preventive dental or medical care).
Of the three patient care aide groups, home health aides were the most likely to report poor physical health, high blood pressure and cholesterol, depression, arthritis, and asthma.
“These results show the need to focus resources on the patient care aide workforce, particularly those in home health,” the study’s abstract states. “While some needs of nursing home aides, such as improving influenza vaccination coverage and reducing the prevalence of arthritis‐related conditions, would benefit from standardized workplace interventions, alternate, workplace‐specific approaches are needed for home health aides.”
An estimated 2.4 million patient care aides work in the United States. The researchers noted that this is a low-wage workforce – earning a median wage of $12.31 an hour in 2017 – which may be part of the reason for its lack of access to health care.
More attention on health care concerns among this worker population is important because an additional 1.2 million home health and personal care aides are expected to join the workforce by 2028 – an increase of 36% – according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The study was published online Oct. 21 in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine.