In 2020, the New Jersey Legislature passed a law setting minimum staffing requirements for nursing homes in the state. These new requirements were intended to ensure a higher standard of care for nursing home residents and prevent cases of neglect caused by insufficient nursing staff.
However, a new report reveals that a majority of NJ nursing homes (Long-Term Care/“Sub-Acute Rehabilitation” Facilities) failed to meet the minimum staffing requirements under the new law. This raises serious concerns about resident safety throughout the state, and it remains unclear whether NJ nursing home facilities will be held accountable for routine understaffing.
NJ’s Nursing Home Minimum Staffing Requirements
In 2020, the New Jersey legislature passed S2712, a bill which set minimum staffing requirements for all nursing homes in the state. Under this new law, which took effect in February of 2021, nursing homes in New Jersey are responsible for maintaining the following staff-to-resident ratios:
There must be at least one certified nurse aide (CNA) for every eight residents during the day shift
During the evening shift, there must be at least one direct care staff member for every ten residents (each staff member shall be signed in to work as a certified nurse aide and shall perform certified nurse aide duties)
During the night shift, there must be at least one direct care staff member for every fourteen residents (each staff member shall be signed in to work as a certified nurse aide and shall perform certified nurse aide duties)
The law was first introduced in response to rampant understaffing at NJ nursing facilities, leading to overworked CNAs and a lower overall standard of care for many nursing home residents.
Many Nursing Homes Remain Understaffed
Despite these new legal requirements, a startling number of New Jersey nursing homes remain significantly understaffed. In fact, a recent analysis from NJ Advance Media found that 59% of NJ nursing homes failed to meet minimum staffing requirements in the first quarter of 2022, and another 11.9% failed to report data as required by the law. Taken together, this means that less than a third of New Jersey nursing homes have demonstrated compliance with the new law’s requirements.
This trend is especially concerning as some CNAs have reported that their employers are using falsified staffing schedules and other means to circumvent the law, meaning that the actual number of non-compliant nursing homes may be even higher.
Striving For Better Enforcement
Extreme understaffing at nursing homes throughout New Jersey is not only leading to burnout among CNAs but also reducing staff’s ability to adequately care for the needs of residents. Having enough nursing aides on each floor is one of the most vital ways to ensure an adequate standard of care—CNAs care for both the physical and emotional health of their residents, including feeding, cleaning, and supervising them, providing companionship, and preventing falls and bedsores. When CNAs are forced to care for too many patients at a time, the standard of care for all residents suffers proportionately.