Aged care workers are being asked to administer insulin in the community, without being qualified or approved to do so.
HelloCare has become aware that home care workers with only Certificate III qualifications are being asked to administer insulin to home care clients.
Being asked to perform this task is leaving workers concerned about the risks to their clients, but also about the potential risks to their future career.
Home care workers with Certificate III are only qualified to assist somebody to self-administer medications, according to Paul Gilbert, assistant secretary ANMF.
“That wouldn’t extend to giving an injection,” Gilbert told HelloCare.
“If you’re supervising someone else who gives themselves an insulin injection and is otherwise competent, that is a different question, that’s alright,” he said.
But if somebody who is not qualified is giving insulin injections they are “exposing themselves, and those they are caring for, to incredible risk,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert hopes the practice is not widespread.
Insulin is not only being administered by under-qualified aged care workers in the community, but also in residential aged care.
Gilbert said in aged care homes, enrolled nurses or registered nurses are the only staff qualified to administer insulin medication.
Gilbert said he himself is not personally aware that personal care workers are administering insulin in aged care homes, but any homes that do carry out the practice should not pass accreditation audits.
“I wouldn’t have thought that a home that did that would survive a visit from the agency,” he said.
There are 1.7 million people in Australia with diabetes, and the risk increases with age. Of Australia’s roughly 300,000 aged care residents, it’s estimated that 10%-20% have the condition.
Because it is so common, insulin is “the drug most likely to result in an adverse outcome if it’s not administered correctly,” Gilbert explained.
Overdoses can be fatal.
Even among highly qualified nurses, medication errors involving insulin do occur from time to time, Gilbert said.
In one case, a nurse accidentally administered 44 units of insulin rather than 4 after misreading the doctor’s instructions – highlighting just how much care, knowledge and experience is required when administering the drug.
“[The nurse] should have known there wouldn’t have been circumstances you would be giving a person 44 units of insulin,” Gilbert warned.
Fortunately, dosage controlled injections have helped to reduce the risks encountered when administering insulin, Gilbert said.
Aged care workers who only carry the Cert III qualification should speak to their manager and refuse to administer insulin until they have earned the necessary qualifications.