Why are aged care providers preventing staff from administering first aid?

Aged care staff first aid

An aged care worker has spoken up, asking HelloCare’s Aged Care Worker Support Group on Facebook if a resident fell and was bleeding, should they call an RN for assistance and then apply pressure to the wound – or wait for the nurse to arrive, as management has asked?

Over 100 members of the support group commented. In almost all responses, the aged care workers said the first responder, whoever they may be, should call for help and then apply basic first aid. 

Many emphasised the importance of keeping the resident “calm and comfortable” in the crisis situation.

A member of the support group who commented on the post – a first aid trainer in the aged care sector – said in a crisis, the person on the spot is “the most important person” in that situation. “Without you, RNs often wouldn’t know someone actually needs help,” she said.

She said aged care workers have a ‘duty of care’ to residents. If staff “do nothing” while waiting for an RN to arrive during an emergency, they could find themselves in strife. Any employer that “attempted to discipline you for rendering basic first aid … won’t get far.”

RNs might be busy when they are first called, one commenter observed. In the meantime, “someone has to be with the resident, keeping them calm and applying pressure to the wound”.

“Everyone needs to know what to do [in these situations],” she said.

The situation becomes more complex if the person is not breathing or in cardiac arrest. Staff then have to determine if CPR is appropriate, referring to advance care directives.

‘It’s about priorities’ 

A registered nurse with “considerable experience” wrote she would “appreciate it if one of my PCWs administered first aid” before she could get to the scene. It’s likely she would be in the middle of “25 other things” before she could get to the resident.

“It’s about priorities. I have had the situation where someone has had a fall so I attended that, but while I was there, someone at the other end of the facility was vomiting blood. In between someone else is having a hypo.”

In a crisis, every bit of assistance helps.

The RN thanked carers for their “hard work”. “It takes a team to manage the complexities of aged care,” she observed.

PCWs expected to offer “emergency assistance”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health told HelloCare, “It is expected personal care workers with appropriate first aid training would be able to render emergency assistance.” 

However, they noted that individual residential aged care homes and providers might “have their own policies about medical assistance”.

Aged care homes will also have their own scope of work for carers.

The spokesperson said government-funded residential aged care providers are required to ensure consumers get “safe and effective personal and clinical care” and the Aged Care Quality and Safety Commission may take regulatory action “where a provider is not meeting its responsibilities”.

What would the resident want?

“In times of high stress or pressure, most of us don’t really think about the rules, we just do,” a member of the support group wrote.

Of course, the most important person in this debate is the resident.

As one aged care worker noted, “You would rather act and do something than stand around saying, ‘Sorry, I have to wait for the RN to come.’ The facility may not agree, but I am sure the loved ones would.”

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