Exploring the role of nurses and nursing assistants in assisted living facilities
Written by Lindsay on July 25th, 2011
Being a nurse in an assisted living facility enables one to work with residents who are higher functioning than those who may live in a skilled nursing facility (i.e. nursing home). Whichever specialization in the nursing field that a person chooses, the basic requirement is that the nurse is a devoted and caring person with high ethical standards a willingness to help other people. It is also necessary to be flexible and to know how to relate to people. Knowing how to work as a team is paramount since the assisted living nurse collaborates with residents, doctors and other staff members.
Assisted living facilities require different levels of nursing degrees. Most facilities hire registered nurses as shift managers. The RN keeps track of drug schedules and inventory, as well as doctor’s orders and emergency situations that may arise for a resident. The resident census of the facility will usually determine how many RNs will be working each shift. The facility may be comprised of several individual apartments as a community with a central nursing house. Or, the facility may be like a hotel with individual rooms with a nursing department on the main floor. Whichever setup is used, there is at least one RN available at all times.
Some of the larger, more populated facilities also hire LPNs (licensed practical nurses) to help the RNs with emergency calls and drug administration. In a pinch, an LPN may manage a shift with an RN on-call for emergency. Several STNAs (State Licensed Nursing Assistants) or CNAs (Certified Nursing Assistants) may be hired to work each shift to help with domestic duties, such as helping a resident do things in the home. They may also coordinate fun activities or provide transportation for the residents. The STNAs can also take and record vitals (temperature, blood pressure, pulse) if a doctor orders. Neither an STNA nor a CNA may administer medications or perform certain other skilled nursing duties.
The training involved for a nursing career in such a facility depends on whether a person wants to be an RN, LPN or STNA. Most RN degrees are two-year programs with intense study and clinical training. The candidates are pretested and interviewed before being accepted into the program. After passing all classes and practicum with at least a “B” average, the student nurse must pass a state examination to receive a license as a registered nurse with the respective state nursing board. There are many LPN programs that are offered in vocational/technical schools and can take as little as 8 months. Again, there is a lot of study and practical training involved and the student has to pass a state examination for the license. Many facilities are choosing STNAs over CNAs because the STNAs have been tested satisfactorily by the state. There are several nursing homes that offer in-house STNA training as well as most vocational schools. The STNA training usually lasts about six weeks.
Wages depend on where one lives and which type of nursing certificate is earned. Average pay range for an RN in an assisted living facility is $41K annually (which is usually salary and over 40 hours). An LPN may average $35K annually. Many STNAs may start out at minimum wage and work up to $11 per hour (sometimes a little more). Again, salary rates and hours depend on which state and city a nurse lives and its standard cost of living. It also depends on the size and census of the particular facility.
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