Top Safety Tips for Nurses

Top Safety Tips for Nurses

Top Safety Tips for Nurses
Top Safety Tips for Nurses

Ask any nurse how to improve patient safety, and it’s certain that they will rattle off tons of interventions and ideas. Ask the same nurse what type of concerns directly impact them, and it’s just as certain that the list will not be as long or articulated as easily. Statistics show that nurses and healthcare workers have almost twice the risk of exposure to injury or illness compared to all other occupations.

Hospitals and healthcare Environments Can Be Hazardous to a Worker’s Health

Healthcare is the nation’s fastest growing industry. The majority of employees are women. Healthcare is fast-paced, stressful and often chaotic which increases the risk of staff injury. Hospitals are hazardous places to work due to the unique challenges present in daily healthcare work. Injuries and illnesses in healthcare environments occur at almost twice the national average.

Statistics on Staff Injury/Illness (OSHA, 2011)

  • 6.8 injuries per 100 healthcare workers - almost double the national average

  • 24% of nurses or nursing assistants missed work or changed shifts to recover from injury

  • 58,860 worker injuries that caused employees to miss work in 2011

  • 48% of these injuries were related to body overexertion or movement such as lifting and bending

  • 8 of 10 nurses reported that they frequently work with back or muscle pain

  • 12.1% of emergency room nurses experienced some violence weekly, and over 97% percent of the perpetrators were patients.

  • Safety risks increase in mental health jobs

What Makes healthcare Environments So Hazardous?

Healthcare environments are unique in their risks and culture. No two shifts are alike and every day presents new challenges. healthcare workers, especially nurses, face a variety of safety issues. Healthcare workers are known to put their safety at risk to help patients in unpredictable situations.

Top Five Types of Injury Among Hospital Workers (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011)

  • Slips, trips, and falls -25%

  • Overexertion and Body Injury – 48%

  • Contact with Objects - 13%

  • Violence - 9%

  • Exposure to Substance - 4%

  • All other causes - 1%

So, What’s a Nurse to Do?

A nurse or healthcare worker has little control over many situations and conditions that increase safety risks, but there still are many things that can be done to reduce risks.

1. Be prepared.

Learn to be organized so you are prepared. Build in time to organize your tools and clean your equipment properly. Leave on time for work. Organize your day so that you can take advantage of your full-breaks. Schedule your time and your work day to avoid being rushed.

2. Lessen stress everywhere you can.

Nurses are extraordinarily good at caring for others, but not so good at caring for themselves. Practicing self-care is as essential to taking care of yourself as breathing. The airline stewardess who instructs the passengers to “put the oxygen mask on themselves first” understands that a person cannot help anyone else if they cannot breathe. This example is true for nurses as well. A nurse who is centered and present at the moment is more likely to aware of safety issues. Self-care encompasses many things. Nurses who practice self-care are likely to benefit in the following ways:

  • Reduced stress and being frazzled or rushed

  • Less likely to respond negatively to impatient, irritable patients

  • Improved organization, so nurse remembers tools such as gloves

  • Learn self-advocacy and boundary-setting. Every nurse wants to be a hero, but that doesn’t mean that you have to accept every double shift or fill in for short staffing unless mandated.

  • Reduced fatigue. Taking care of yourself and being prepared lessens the risk of fatigue. Fatigue increases risk of injury such carelessness, and improper body positioning

  • Fewer injuries. Risk of injury increases with fatigue, stress, at the end of a shift, and when working overtime.

3. Be careful with sharp objects.

  • Needlesticks and sharps injuries accounted for 13% of workplace injuries

  • CDC reported 385,000 sharps related injuries yearly

The Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act mandates that hospitals and healthcare facilities provide safety needs and sharps injury logs It seems redundant to stress the need to be careful with sharp objects but this remains a significant source of injury and infection despite organizational attempts to lessen risk. It is a combination of organization structure and individual attention that reduces risks overall. A nurse must be familiar with the task at hand, use the appropriate technique, and be vigilant regarding proper disposal of sharps.

4. Always Use Appropriate Gloves. Use Latex-Free Gloves When Possible.

  • Latex allergy is on the rise. Ask your workplace to provide powder-free gloves. If this is not possible, wash your hands thoroughly to prevent irritation and rash from the powder.

  • Always carry clean gloves with you.

  • Use oil-free lotion as oil-based creams can break down the latex and increase the risk exposure.

  • Increase awareness of chemicals, drugs, and biohazards.

5. Be Knowledgeable About Workplace Violence.

OSHA reports that nurses are vulnerable to workplace violence defined as “physically or psychologically damaging actions occurring in the workplace.”

There are four kinds of workplace violence.

  • Violent Patient

  • Criminal Intent

  • Worker to Worker

  • Personal Relationship Violence

The rise of workplace violence has sparked campaigns to enact legislation in many states, but currently, there is no federal mandate to protect healthcare workers against violence. However, there are specific protective actions that reduce risk.

  • Be familiar and careful of patients with a history of violence, drug or alcohol addiction, or dementia.

  • Ask for an escort to parking areas at night.

  • Ask for an escort in environments perceived to be unsafe

  • Honor security badge policies.

  • Have a safety plan in place.

6. Safe Patient Handling

Nurses are always in risk of musculoskeletal injuries. The ANA has worked aggressively on a professional, comprehensive effort to increase safety. Education and training are readily available with an emphasis on the use of assistive equipment, needle safety, and overall improved security and safety.

  • Learn proper body mechanics.

  • Participate in individual and facility training.

  • Learn about the Safe Needles Save Lives Campaign!

  • Participate in ANA’s Influenza Initiative to reduce the spread of infection.

The risk of illness and injury to healthcare workers is almost double that of other professions. Workers face unpredictable and challenging situations and hazards on a daily basis. Healthcare workers can significantly reduce the risk of injury by being vigilant and proactive with self-care practices and attention to safety details. healthcare workers must assume responsibility to practice workplace safety and advocate for improved safety response to new safety concerns.

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