CNAs take brunt of penalties

Salem Hospital. / Thomas Patterson | Statesman Journal file

(Statesman Journal) Certified nursing assistants, on average, get disciplined more than registered nurses even though the profession makes up a smaller part of the industry.

In the past fiscal year, there were 48,194 registered nurses in Oregon, more than double the amount of certified nursing assistants in the state.

Yet about 44 percent of the disciplinary actions taken by the Oregon State Board of Nursing were against certified nursing assistants, data from the board shows.

From neglecting a client and incorrect record keeping to use of drugs or alcohol, there are a variety of reasons why people who work in the nursing industry get placed on probation or have their license suspended or revoked.

These actions are rare. Fewer than 1 percent of people in nursing jobs get disciplined.

But unlike nursing assistants, registered nurses can participate in a substance abuse and mental health monitoring program called the Health Professionals’ Services Program.

It’s one way to avoid getting disciplined by the board that nursing assistants don’t have.

“If they do enter that program then their case is dismissed pending their performance in the program,” said Barbara Holtry, a spokeswoman for the board.

When a registered nurse gets disciplined, it’s more for technical errors such as incomplete charting. Nursing assistants tend to get discipline for behavioral issues, which are more difficult to remedy, she said.

“It’s easier to re-mediate a charting error with a class as opposed to if you failed to respect a client’s rights,” Holtry said.

One job also requires more training than the other.

Registered nurses must obtain a college degree or a diploma from an approved nursing program and become licensed by passing a national exam.

Becoming a certified nursing assistant in Oregon doesn’t require a college degree. Instead, they complete Board-approved training programs, which are 150 hours, consisting of 75 hours of classroom and 75 hours of supervised clinical experience, before passing an exam.

“With entry level jobs, people haven’t had the experience in the job world yet to learn some of the work behaviors that are essential for success such as good attendance and thoroughly completing a job,” said Sherryll Hoar, a spokeswoman for Salem Health. “Those are some of the things that you will learn with experience on the job.”

Both occupations have been growing despite the economic downturn and are expected to grow at a much faster rate than the statewide average for all other occupations by 2020.

The number of registered nurses statewide is expected to grow by about 26 percent while the number of nursing aides, orderlies and attendants is projected to increase by 30 percent.