Medical care associates are a key part of many of the largest U.S. hospitals, where the vast majority of their patients are older people with chronic illnesses.
The term refers to people who work at the hospital, but the practice is increasingly becoming commonplace across hospitals.
Many associate nurses are now working for the hospital as a way to make up for lost time, especially as they’re often required to provide care to people with disabilities, the elderly and people with low incomes.
But even as these roles have expanded, they have become less common in recent years.
Now that doctors and other healthcare professionals are in their 80s and 90s, they’re seeing a surge in associate nurses.
The practice has gained popularity partly because it’s so new, said John C. Haughey, a professor of nursing at New York University and the director of the nursing and health sciences program at NYU Langone Medical Center.
And since the hospital doesn’t have much incentive to increase their number, they are getting fewer calls, which means fewer people will be eligible for care, Haugay said.
“The more you add in associate nurse, the more you have to do it, and the less likely it is that people are going to be able to get care,” he said.
In a 2016 study of 2,100 people in New York City, doctors, nursing homes and other medical professionals reported that fewer than 1 percent of their visits were made to an associate nurse during the same period, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
And more recently, some hospitals have moved to recruit new staff members from the community.
For instance, one of the hospitals that started recruiting associate nurses, New York-Presbyterian Hospital-Columbia University Medical Center, in 2016, had to recruit 10 new associates by the end of 2019, the hospital said in a statement.
And the nursing home also has increased its number of associate nurses since last year, when it hired 50, the statement said.
As a result, many associate nurses have found themselves in more challenging situations, including when they’re assigned to patients with mental health issues, the New York Times reported last month.
In some cases, they may need to help patients with physical or mental health challenges.
Associate nurses often help with more routine duties, such as taking patients to appointments or helping with patient care, but their jobs are not always as comfortable as other healthcare workers, said Jennifer S. Schatz, a healthcare assistant professor at New Hampshire Medical School.
In that case, they can have a harder time finding a job because the hospital may not want to risk having a patient with a mental illness in a room with someone who is not comfortable, she said.
The Associated Press