There are jobs where workplace hazards deter people from considering certain careers. Law enforcement officer, firefighter, and lion tamer, are three such careers. But for a career in nursing, it’s unlikely most people consider patient care particularly hazardous or life threatening. One of the biggest challenges faced by nurses today, however, are hazards these professionals encounter every day. And these workplace hazards for nurses cannot be taken lightly.
The Hazards of Patient Care
Whether in a hospital setting or any medical facility in which patient care is the primary focus, nurses are exposed to a wide range of workplace hazards. From infectious disease to injuries, nurses put themselves at risk simply by providing care to those they serve.
In addition to the health risks, there are other workplace hazards that nurses need to consider. From environmental threats to latex allergies and dermatitis from continued hand-washing and hygiene, nurses’ days are fraught with workplace hazards.
The responsibility to keep nurses safe falls on their employers. The ever-present medical facility’s focus on a “culture of safety” must extend beyond the patient and include nurses and other staff members who regularly face workplace hazards.
Workplace Hazards That Nursing Staff Face
When nurses are injured due to hazards at work or grow weary of daily threats, it becomes more difficult for them to continue their careers. This fact, along with the shortage of available nurses, needs to be taken seriously.
The CDC points out overexertion is one of the top risks for healthcare workers. Sprains, muscle strains, and muscular injuries cost healthcare workers time at work, which in turn, impacts patient care. More than that, nurses who are continually exposed to these types of injuries can endure chronic pain that affects their job performance now and in the future.
Nurses can also slip, trip, or fall at work. Just as they must take care to prevent these types of injuries to their patients, nurses must be mindful of the workplace hazards presented by spills, drainage issues, and similar hazards. Medical facilities must train staff to recognize these potential workplace hazards and avoid the threat of slipping, tripping, or falling.
Violence in the workplace poses a very real and very dangerous threat to nurses as well. Any time a nurse provides patient care, there is a psychosocial element concerning the emotional health of the patient, as well as their loved ones. If you feel threatened by anyone, at any time, alert security and follow the procedures and protocols in place where you work.
Working with patients who are ill exposes nurses to infections. Nurses are exposed to all manner of life-threatening infections such as MRSA, hepatitis B, HIV, and tuberculosis.
Additionally, nurses nationwide suffer up to 1 million needle sticks per year. What can you do to avoid infections and prevent sharps and needle sticks? First, keep up to date on all vaccines and always wear protection. Be aware that most needle sticks and sharps exposure occurs during disposal. Follow safety procedures to the letter. If you do suffer a sharps or needle stick, report it immediately.
Hospitals and other medical facilities have protocols in place for those staff members who are exposed to chemical hazards such as chemotherapy drugs and sterilizing agents. Follow safety protocols to limit the risk of encountering workplace hazards and prevent accidents. Don’t rush when handling these hazardous materials. Slow down and take the time to be safe.
Also, if you notice a chemical hazard, report it. This ensures your employer can take appropriate measures to address the hazard before it leads to an on-the-job accident, injury, or fatality.
Nurses are often exposed to traumatic situations and events. Most of the time, you can handle these distressing events knowing you are doing what you can. But sometimes, a situation can cause severe emotional distress. This can result in PTSD, one of the workplace hazards nurses frequently face when dealing with trauma and loss.
Along with emotional distress, nurses can suffer from sleep deprivation, especially if they are required to pull the occasional night shift. Combined with the stress that naturally comes with providing care to patients, it’s common for nurses to feel acute stress that impacts their ability to do their job.
If you experience stress that impacts your physical and mental health and wellbeing, seek help. Consult with a doctor so you can find safe and healthy ways to manage your overall wellness. Speak with your supervisor, take leave if necessary, and get counseling as needed, too.
What Nurses Can Do About Workplace Hazards
Nurses are integral and essential contributors to the patient experience. Medical centers must prioritize the safety of nursing staff. It’s necessary for nurses to speak out and speak up when they see workplace hazards that can impact patient care and their careers.
With that in mind, there are steps you can take to protect not only your own safety but the safety of your coworkers and patients.
Go up the chain of command to report workplace safety issues. Medical centers are aware of their liability and the need for safety without too many reminders. OSHA strictly enforces codes for your safety, and many facilities adhere to a strict protocol for employee safety.
Always follow the procedures for slips, falls, needle sticks, and exposure to hazardous materials. Take responsibility for your own safety by avoiding any apparent hazards and protecting yourself from danger. Don’t be careless and be mindful of any potential workplace problems.
At BOS Medical, we take workplace safety to heart. We encourage nurses and medical facilities to do everything in their power to remain safe. This ensures nurses and medical facilities can guard against workplace hazards. They can also do their part to keep patients safe.
If you are interested in joining a medical facility that values workplace safety or want to find nursing job candidates who do the same, we can help. To learn more, get in touch with us today.