Challenges of Nursing:  Workplace Hazards

There are jobs where workplace hazards are an out and out deterrent for those considering careers. Law enforcement, firefighter, lion tamer, just to name a few. 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 the hazards they encounter on a nearly daily basis. Workplace hazards for nurses can be of some serious concern. 

The Hazards of Patient Care


Whether in a hospital setting, or any medical facility in which patient care is the primary focus, nurses face exposure to workplace hazards regularly. From infectious disease to injuries nurses put themselves at risk simply by providing care for those they serve. 

In addition to the health risks posed in a nursing career there are other workplace hazards 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 patient caregivers safe from certain threats falls on their employers. Ever-present medical facility focus on a “culture of safety” must extend beyond the patient and include those nurses and staff who are regularly under the threat of workplace hazards.

Workplace Hazards Faced by Nursing Staff

When nurses are injured due to hazards of the workplace, or grow weary of daily threats it becomes more difficult to continue their career. This fact, added to the serious shortage of available nurses, should be of grave concern to all.

Physical Injury 

According to the CDC, in 2015 44% of all reported injuries to healthcare workers resulted from overexertion. 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 endure a chronic pain that can affect their job performance. 

Nurses also are under constant threat of slips, trips, and falls. Just as they must take care to prevent these types of injuries to their patients, nurses must also be mindful of the workplace hazards presented by spills, drainage issues, and the like. Medical facilities would be wise to 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, very dangerous threat today. anytime you provide 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 anytime, alert security and follow the procedures and protocols which should be in place where you work.


Working with patients who are very 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 an estimated 800,000 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.

Chemical Hazards

All hospitals and medical facilities have protocols in place for those staff members who are exposed to chemical hazards such as chemotherapy drugs and sterilizing agents. Limit these workplace hazards and prevent accidents by always following these protocols. Don’t become rushed or overburdened when handling these hazardous materials. Slow down and take the time to be safe.

Emotional Distress

Nurses are exposed to all manner of traumatic situations and events. Most of the time you can handle these distressing events knowing you are doing what you can. Every once in awhile a situation will impact you to the point of distress. This can result in PTSD one of the workplace hazards nurses face when dealing with trauma and loss. 

Additionally many nurses 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 it’s not unusual for nurses to feel acute stress that impacts their ability to do their job. Speak with your supervisor, take leave if necessary, and get some counseling.

What Nurses Can Do About Workplace Hazards

Nurses are an integral part, some may say the most essential part, of the patient experience. Medical centers must place priority on the safety and protection of their nursing staff. It’s necessary for nurses to speak out and speak up when sensing workplace hazards that 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 and welfare of your coworkers and patients as well.  Go up the chain of command until you get some satisfaction. Generally speaking 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 on the responsibility for your own safety by avoiding any apparent hazards and protecting yourself from danger. Don’t be careless. Make sure you are mindful of any potential problems  taking care to avoid the workplace hazards which befall nurses in their career.

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