Local News

New Changes May Ease Restrictions For Medical Aides

Posted February 21, 2005

— The state wants regulated training for workers who give out medication. But, there is a lesser-known aspect in the proposal that has sparked debate over who should be allowed to administer drugs.

For years, unlicensed aides have handed out medication to patients in state prisons, schools and some adult-care facilities. Most learn their duties on the job.

"What we're trying to do is to provide a consistent training for these individuals," said Dave Kalbacker, of the North Carolina Board of Nursing.

The North Carolina Board of Nursing's Medication Aide Project calls for 24 hours of standardized training for all those workers. The proposal also seeks to ease current restrictions and allow aides to give out drugs to patients where they now cannot -- areas such as nursing homes and acute care hospital settings.

"I would have never imagined this in my worst nightmare," nurse Wanda Abbott said.

After 35 years as a registered nurse, Abbott believes turning over med duties is dangerous. She argues 24 hours of training does not come close to the months or years it takes to understand adverse or even deadly drug reactions.

"Do you want to risk your health in the hospital or your loved one's health in a nursing home by having the least-trained technician giving the most important aspect of care," she said.

"I think there could be a few people that are concerned by this. I think their fears are unfounded," Kalbacker said.

Kalbacker said the plan is designed to free up nurses to concentrate more on overall patient care, not pushing around a drug cart. Plus, nurses will supervise aides.

"You're ultimately responsible for that group of patients, but you're not giving the important care that you were trained to give," Abbott said.

With the ongoing nursing shortage, Abbott does not see her job security under assault, rather the quality of healthcare.

"Is the risk of someone's life versus the reward of saving a few dollars worth it?" Abbott said.

A representative for the state Department of Health and Human Services told WRAL the state has to do something to address health care worker shortages. A bill seeking to expand the scope of medication aides is expected to be filed this legislation session.

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