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Efforts Continue to Empower TN Patients, Caregivers

Legislation in the Tennessee State Assembly would allow trained caregivers to perform simple health-maintenance tasks, such as administering medicine to in-home patients. (A./Flickr)
Legislation in the Tennessee State Assembly would allow trained caregivers to perform simple health-maintenance tasks, such as administering medicine to in-home patients. (A./Flickr)
February 27, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – As it now stands in Tennessee, only a registered nurse can provide basic health care to in-home patients. While the law may sound logical on paper, state Rep. Darren Jernigan, D-Nashville, said he experienced firsthand how that requirement may complicate things for patients as they seek care at home.

Wheelchair-bound after an accident, Jernigan said, his home health aide couldn't hand him a bottle of medicine.

"My medicine I'd been taking for 20 years got put right out of arm's reach," he explained. "I said, 'You mean to tell me you can't hand me that bottle?' And she said, 'No, I can't.' It just defied common sense to me."

Jernigan is a cosponsor of House Bill 0968, to allow medical professionals to delegate some health-maintenance tasks to a paid care worker. Reps. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, and Sherry Jones, D-Nashville, also are cosponsors.

Opponents argue it could remove responsibilities that should be handled by a trained nurse, and could potentially put a patient at risk. But supporters of of the bill say, because many patients can't afford a registered nurse in home care, this offers an opportunity for a trained medical professional to offer some of that care.

Jernigan says based on his experience, home-health aides should at least be able to connect patients with medication already directed by a medical professional.

"I seriously think there's little, minor maintenance health-care decisions that can be made, under delegation of a nurse, that someone can go in and do that, especially if there's a plan in place," said Jernigan.

AARP Tennessee and patient-advocacy groups are among the bill's supporters. According to the Pew Research Center, for the next 20 years, an average of 10,000 people each day will reach age 65 nationwide.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN