Author: Peter Klebanoff, Vice President of Healthcare Sales
Healthcare environments can be challenging places to work for a number of reasons. From general risks like trips, slips and falls, to more specific hazards like needlesticks and patient violence, nurses have a lot to cope with.
Because nurses and other healthcare workers do face a large number of physical and emotional challenges, it’s important to put proper safety procedures in place. These rules, regulations and practices can go a long way to preventing injury in the workplace and keeping healthcare professionals safe. Here are a few of the most important safety tips for nurses.
Common Safety Concerns for Nurses
According to the American Nurses Association, the top workplace safety concerns for nurses working in the U.S are stress and overwork (74%) and musculoskeletal injury (62%). Figures from the American Nurses Association also show that nurses are increasingly worried by workplace violence and patient assaults.
Other common safety concerns for nurses include:
- Physical injury
- Mental wellbeing
- Chemical hazards
- Radiation exposure
Tips for Minimizing Daily Safety Risks
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. hospitals recorded 221,400 work-related injuries and illnesses in 2019 alone. That’s a rate of 5.5 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees, almost twice the rate for private industry as a whole.
There are some risks that are endemic to virtually every healthcare setting. Safety issues like needlesticks, infection control, burnout, and workplace violence affect nurses around the world. Putting measures in place to modify and reduce these risks is the best way to improve staff well-being and patient safety.
Workplace violence is a real issue for nurses working in clinics and hospitals. According to the World Health Organization, between 8% and 38% of nurses experience workplace violence at some point in their careers. However, one recent survey put the numbers much higher, with 44.4% and 67.8% of nurses experiencing physical violence and verbal abuse respectively. Nurses working in mental health are at an even higher risk of becoming the victim of an assault.
There are a number of ways to reduce workplace violence in healthcare settings:
- Nurses should be trained in de-escalation techniques and risk management
- Hallways and waiting rooms should be spacious and brightly lit
- Access to the premises should be controlled at all times
- Reporting procedures should be put in place to record violent incidents
High-tech solutions can also be used to protect nurses and clinicians in the workplace. Installing an electronic entry system can help to limit access to the premises, and panic buttons can be issued to healthcare workers to allow them to call for help if they find themselves in an unsafe situation.
As well as protecting healthcare workers when they’re on shift, wireless panic buttons can help nurses, doctors and other members of the staffing team get to and from their vehicles safely. If they’re confronted by aggressive patients or family members, the nurse can silently trigger their panic button. Their location will then be sent directly to security personnel who can quickly come to their aid.
Nurses are often expected to provide exceptional levels of patient care whilst working long hours and being placed under constant pressure. This can lead to exhaustion, stress and burnout, all things that can negatively affect patient care and result in unnecessary mistakes.
One of the only ways to effectively prevent burnout is to practice self-care. After all, you can’t look after other people if you’re not looking after yourself. So, take some time to rest, eat well and put your needs first. This may mean giving away that extra shift or saying no to over time. While this may be difficult to do, looking after yourself will benefit both you and your patients.
Everyday issues like aggressive patients, heavy workloads, and low staffing levels can easily result in high-stress levels. These stressors are often difficult to avoid. However, identifying them, and creating coping strategies, should help you to tackle them without becoming overwhelmed.
Sleep deprivation is a serious safety issue. Lack of sleep can easily result in medication errors, accidents in the workplace, and difficulty coping with challenging situations. If you know you’re not getting enough sleep, forgo that double shift, log off social media and get some well-deserved shut eye. If you still feel tired, talk to your manager about ways to reduce your workload.
Repetitive Motion Injuries
Repetitive motion can result in a range of musculoskeletal injuries. To prevent aches and strains, invest in proper nursing shoes that support your legs and aid good posture. If you notice any ongoing pain, it’s well worth seeing a doctor or physiotherapist. Treating injuries quickly will help to prevent them from becoming more serious.
Proper Lifting Techniques
Learning proper lifting techniques can help to prevent back pain when moving patients. Most healthcare providers will offer training on this basic safety measure, so double-check with your employer to see what’s available.
Physical hazards in a hospital or healthcare setting can include needles and sharp objects, infection, hazardous materials and controlled substances.
Be Careful of Sharp Objects and Needlesticks
A needle stick can easily result in infection by a bloodborne pathogen. Be extra careful when dealing with needles and other sharp objects and ensure any sharps are disposed of in receptacles that are safe for needles.
We’ve all become a little more aware of the importance of infection prevention since the Covid-19 pandemic. Hand washing is one of the best ways to reduce the chances of infection in any setting. If you work with vulnerable patients in the ICU or other high risk areas, you may want to wear PPE as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides lots of information on the subject.
Avoid Latex Allergy by Using Proper Gloves
Latex allergies affect around 1% of the population but around 3% – 12% of healthcare workers (the incidence is higher amongst healthcare workers due to increased exposure). If you have a latex allergy or are concerned about allergic reactions, you can avoid the substance by using good quality, latex-free medical gloves.
Hazardous Drug Administration
It’s important to avoid skin contact with some substances when giving them to patients. You should also find out which drugs remain in the system even after excretion. These substances can present a hazard when changing a patient’s catheter.
Taking steps to improve the physical and mental well-being of nurses will help to create safer working environments and boost patient care. Take a look at the OSHA toolkit for ideas on how you can improve workplace safety, or explore our blog posts to learn how our wireless panic buttons for healthcare workers are already protecting nurses across the country. Request a Demo.