Nurses starting their first job may take a while to become familiar with the safety procedures at work. Even nurses with years of experience may be prone to occupational hazards. RNs may encounter many risks throughout their shift, but there are ways they can protect themselves.
What Are Common Hazards in a Healthcare Setting?
Nurses face a number of safety issues and threats. Common hazards for nurses include:
- Blood-borne pathogens
- Chemicals and drugs
- Infectious diseases
- Patient handling
- Waste anesthetic gas
- Verbal abuse, incivility or bullying
How Do Healthcare Hazards Affect Nurses?
Nurses are at a higher risk for illnesses and injuries due to their daily interactions with sick patients and their work in potentially dangerous environments. No matter the healthcare setting, nurses are at risk of coming in contact with bodily fluids, sharp objects, radioactive materials, and toxic chemicals and drugs.
Nurses may also have job-related stress due to difficult co-workers, unsupportive managers and limited resources. In addition, nurses have to deal with unstable patients or family members who become distraught, angry or hostile. Hazards in the workplace may affect nurses in the following ways:
- Back, shoulder and neck injuries
- Infectious disease
- Radiation poisoning
- Slips, trips or falls
- Adverse reactions to chemicals and drugs
How Can Nurses Stay Safe?
To reduce risk and prevent accidents, nurses must stay aware of problematic situations and not rush through their tasks. Here are some tips for staying safe and avoiding hazards.
- Never lift or move patients alone: You should seek assistance and use proper body mechanics when lifting patients. Another alternative is safe patient-handling and mobility (SPHM) technology such as lifts and friction-reducing devices.
- Employ best practices when handling sharps: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nurses should not recap or bend used needles. They recommend that nurses use safety devices and properly dispose of sharps in a labeled, leak- and puncture-proof container.
- Wear protective clothing and equipment: Specialized equipment such as goggles, masks, gloves, face shields and respirators create a barrier to protect nurses from bacteria, viruses and fungi.
- Adhere to safety precautions, policies and procedures: When nurses administer drugs or handle chemicals, they should read the labeling on products, apply information found on safety data sheets and follow government regulations.
- Remove any obstacles and clean up wet surfaces: This can eliminate the chances of tripping or falling while taking care of patients.
- Monitor exposure to radiation: A badge or ring dosimeter will alert you to high levels of radiation.
- Make time for self-care: Engage in relaxing activities outside of work so you have the energy and patience to provide quality care to your patients.
While patient welfare is a priority for nurses, they can sometimes jeopardize their own well-being. At the end of the day, it is not unusual for nurses to go home with cuts, bruises and sprains, or aches and pains. Nurses need to safeguard their physical and mental health by keeping up to date with their healthcare organization's safety policies and procedures, following government guidelines and remaining vigilant about possible hazards.
Learn more about Eastern Illinois University's online RN to BSN program.
Sources:Minority Nurse: Personal Safety for Nurses
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