The bedside can be a dangerous place for nurses. Healthcare settings have some of the highest rates of workplace injury in the USA, with injuries and illnesses in healthcare environments occurring at almost twice the national average.
Just as patient safety is vital and should never be underestimated, so is the safety of nurses. Healthcare environments are unique in risk, with no two days being the same, meaning nurses are exposed to many challenges at work making workplace safety a must.
Ultimately, nurses have little control over the situations that contribute to safety risks. Yet many things can be done to help reduce these risks and help keep nurses away from the occupational health office.
Be diligent about workplace violence
Unfortunately, violence within healthcare environments is not uncommon. Workplace violence accounts for 8% of injuries among hospital workers, with nurses particularly vulnerable to this type of injury. OHSA defines workplace violence as “physically or psychologically damaging actions occurring in the workplace.” To help reduce this risk, it is important for nurses to do a number of things.
- A nurse has to be diligent.
- A nurse must familiarize themselves with their patients.
- A nurse must be careful of patients with a history of violence, drug or alcohol addiction, or dementia.
- A nurse must always bring along a fellow colleague if they suspect that a patient or their family may show signs of a violent nature.
Be careful with those sharps
High stress situations, being in a hurry and unpredictable patients mean accidental needle stick injuries are a common threat to nurse safety. In the 2011 report by OSHA needlestick injuries accounted for 13% of workplace injuries, with upwards of 300,000 sharps related injuries reported yearly. Nurses can make sure to use the safety features of needles to help avoid any injuries to themselves as well as be vigilant about the proper disposal of sharps.
Handle with care
48% of the injuries reported by OSHA were related to body overexertion or movement such as bending or lifting. One bad lift has the potential to end a nursing career with nurses having the highest rates of work related back pain.
The American Nurse Association (ANA) is committed to driving initiatives that prevent unnecessary injury to keep both patients and nurses safe. Nurses are at risk of injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), caused by manually lifting patients, every day and so it’s important for nurses to learn the proper way to lift and to always ask for help if they are required to lift something that is outside of their capabilities.
Watch where you are walking
Pay attention to the small safety hazards. Hospitals have the highest incidence of trips, slips and falls amongst their staff. Nurses should be aware of their surroundings, after all a nurse can’t help a patient if they fall and hurt themselves rushing to their patient’s aid.
Don’t ignore burnout symptoms
We know nurses are incredibly good at caring for others, but it’s important that they look after themselves too. Practicing self-care and being your own number one patient as a nurse is vital in such a busy and relentless working environment. The most important thing is to be able to recognize symptoms as early as possible, and to make sure you listen to your body and mind. Nurses shouldn’t ignore the symptoms of a burn out – they must talk to someone.
Nurses must be knowledgeable about workplace safety and ways to reduce the risk of injury. It is vital for nurses to advocate safety in the workplace to create a culture of safety for the benefit of the patient as well as themselves and their fellow colleagues. Education is key in helping to prevent injury and promote safety in the workplace, Conexus Medstaff's US Ready program will ensure that you are the best nurse you can be.