All across the world healthcare professionals andorganizations are dealing with the same issue, nursing workplace hazards andthe effects it has on nurses and healthcare. Nursing Hazards have been asignificant topic of discussion for many health professionals andorganizations. Nurses are continuously reporting the issue of injury andillness. The duties that nurses are tasked with put them at an everyday risk ofdifferent types of hazards.
The safety of employees and health organizationsdepends on nursing hazards being identified and managed with knowledge, skill,and assessment. It is the fundamental right of health professionals to feelsafe at work and to feel safe hazards must be identified and managed. Nurses face exposure to workplace hazardssuch as blood pathogens and other body fluids, chemicals in the form of solid,liquid or gas, needle sticks, latex allergy, spills, equipment malfunction, thephysical strain of the body, and workload. These hazards are under the broadcategory of biological, chemical, physical, safety, and ergonomic and workorganization hazards. The following paper is going to look atworkplace hazards and the effects it has on nursing staff. It will also look athow this issue that is plaguing not only the United States but the world can bemanaged or resolved.
The risk ofinfectious diseases for nurses is not just in different sections of hospitalsbut in other workplace settings that nurses also work, such as prisons, nursinghomes, institutions and outpatient facilities. Infectious diseases such as(HIV, HCV, and HBV) due to needle-stick injuries are risks to the health andlife of nurses. Alavi (2014) found that “600000 to 800000 needle stickinjuries occur each year in all healthcare settings. Injections (21%), suturing(17%), and drawing blood (16%) are the main causes of exposures (11). Severeacute respiratory syndrome (SARS), tuberculosis, and methicillin resistantstaphylococcus infection are other infectious diseases that can afflict nurses”.HBV is one of the most significant exposures for healthcare professionals,especially traveling nurses due to injection diseases while they are onassignment. Nurses must take responsibility to make sure they are immune withdirect patient care responsibilities.
Chemical hazardsare also another source of hazard nurses face in the workplace. Materials usedfor patient treatment and maintaining a proper environment, for example, disinfectantsand sterility products such as ethylene oxide, glutaraldehyde, hazardous drugsused for chemotherapy, and latex exposure are among some of the chemicalsubstances that are hazardous to nurses. Nurses are exposed to these differentkinds and mixtures of chemicals and hazardous agents each year in theirclinical practice.
Similarly, nursesalso face hazards such as workplace violence and exposure to hazards such asradiation. Exposure to radiation is associated with mutations and teratogenicproperties which can cause stillbirth, miscarriages and other reproductiveissues as well as different types of cancers. Nurses, especially those in theemergency department face exposure and are also prone to workplace violence. “Accordingto a 2011 study by the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), the 53.4% of nursesreported experiencing verbal abuse and more than one in 10 (12.9%) reportedexperiencing physical violence (13)” (Alavi, 2014).
Because patient’s mentaland physical health is always changing nurses are still facing the mostinjuries than most occupations. The rate of injuries that nurses encounter isthe second highest just behind construction workers. Medication, confusion, andstress are all factors that may contribute to a patient’s behavior that puts anurse in a hostile work environment. And also the subtle changes in patientsduring ambulation or transfers because of their unpredictability can lead tomusculoskeletal injuries acquired by nurses after trying to stop a patient fromgetting injured. Which leads me to the safety hazards nurses face on a dailybasis, risks such as slips, trips, and falls.
Work-related slips, trips, andfall incidents are serious hazards that can result in disabling injuries thatcould affect a nurse’s ability to do their job and also result in losing theability to work, lost work time, compensation claims, and the reduced abilityto care for patients. Most slips, trips, and falls are associated with hazardsthat could be easily minimized, hazards such as bodily fluids, water, grease,and gel that has spilled on the floor. Nursing home workers are the ones whoexperience more slip, trip, and fall-related injury claims than any otherindustry in the workforce. Bell et al. (2013) found thatThe objective of this research was to describe the slip, trip, and fallinjury experience and trends in a population of nursing home workers, identifyrisk factors for slip, trip, and fall injuries, and develop prevention strategiesfor slip, trip, and fall hazards. Workers’ compensation injury claims data andpayroll data from 1996 through 2003 were obtained from six nursing homes andused to calculate injury incidence rates. Narrative information was used todescribe details of slip, trip, and fall events. A total of 86 slip, trip, andfall-related workers’ compensation claims were filed during the 8-year period.
Slip, trip, and fall claim rates showed a nonsignificant increase during the8-year period. Most slips, trips, and falls were attributed to hazards that canbe mitigated (e.g., water on the floor or loose cords in a walkway). Nursinghome workers experience more slip, trip, and fall-related injury claims thanworkers in other industries. Preventive programs should be implemented andevaluated in this industry.
“Slips,trips, and falls account for the second largest proportion of lost-workdaynonfatal injuries (26%) in the nursing care facilities industry subsector (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011b). The incidence rate for nursing carefacilities surpasses that for all industries for same-level and total slips,trips, and falls—19.5 versus 26.4 per 10,000 workers, respectively. Due to thelarge number of nursing care facility workers, approximately 1.7 million (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011a), and a high incidence, 9,060lost-workday slip, trip, and fall-related injuries occurred in this industry in2010 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011c)”.Nurses are alwayson their feet for hours at a time, which means a physical strain on the bodywhich is a significant risk to nurses. Nurses have to lift and transferpatients on a daily basis, and that is risky.
Lifting and moving is the mostcommon cause of back injury among healthcare professionals. In 2005, Ramsayfound that with patient movement and handling “38% of all nurses areaffected by back injuries, nearly all of these injuries (98%) are due to nurseslifting and moving patients manually (Meier, 2001). There were otherwork-related musculoskeletal disorders found “studies of upper extremitymusculoskeletal disorders in nurses have reported prevalence rates of shoulderproblems in 43-53% of nurses (Lagerström et al.
, 1995) and neck injuriesbetween 31-48% (Ando et al., 2000)” (p. 3).
Additionally nurses that work with patients that areterminally and chronically ill, and nurses that work in intensive care units,burn unit, emergency room, or operating rooms are at risk for work-relatedhazards. Work-related factors that contribute to stress could include life-threateningsituations or illnesses, injuries, workload, lack of respect, support orteamwork, short staffing, scheduling or the passing of a patient. In manyhospitals, nurses might feel isolated, angry, fatigue and feel like they have nopower to act on a situation due to the loss of personal identity created by thosein a higher level of control.
When these signs of stress are not seen and dealtwith, it might cause a burnout. Stress-related symptoms can lead to a downwardspiral with drugs, alcohol, and the use of cigarettes. The characteristics andbehavior of the nurse could change and be affected negatively, which can leadto average job performance, fatigue and an increase in not being present in thejob.
In 2014, Alavi found in a study that “43.4% of nurses reported excessivefatigue (6). Raftopoulos et al. also reported that 91.9% of Cypriot nurses hadfatigue (10)” (p. 1).Nurses are always facing many dangers in the healthcarefield, and these risks must be addressed for the nursing workforce to thrive.The first step to managing this problem is to address the issue of thesehazards.
If the issue can be resolved, then the medical field can startthinking about the strategizing, categorizing and coming up with methods suchas information, training, and instruction on how to handle such criticalissues. The effectiveness of various nursing functions should be consideredwhen developing a prevention program. Protocols can be created which takes intoaccount the evaluation and sharing of specific tasks to specific nurses andidentifying those that need assistance and the type of aid that is required.Providing training and orientation concerning physical hazards such as liftingtechniques when people are hired or reassigned would be a useful way to preventhazards. The management of hazards regarding workload could include having aregularly scheduled staff meeting with the development of programs for managingstress and also coping mechanisms.
An application for employees who need assistance,the ability to be flexible in the development and participation of workschedules, receiving the appropriate education and training sessions, and creatingan organized and productive work environment to the level that is of highstandards. Recognizing and taking action against complaints made that arehazardous, security in dangerous areas, and the use of therapy or supportgroups to help employees deal with professional problems.Nurses are subject to workplace hazards through theirinteraction with patient’s, the environment and the demands of the job.
The jobdemands of nurses put them in risky and hazardous situations on a daily basis.The safety of employees and health organizations depends on nursing hazardsbeing identified and managed with knowledge, skill, and assessment. It is theprimary right of health professionals to feel safe at work and to feel safehazards must be identified and managed. If nursing hazards are identified andmanaged, then that improves the nurse supervisor and the nurse’s ability toknow what to expect. When these risks are identified and controlled in thenursing workplace, then we can improve job satisfaction and reduce jobresignation. The management of these hazards could also suggest the reductionin needle sticks, the increased use of personal protective equipment, betterprecautions, being efficient and protecting yourself from harm. Which as aresult would show that nurses that are trained better would be better atprotecting themselves from job-related risks and would show higher jobsatisfaction levels, less stress, and reduced job resignation.
Greatorganizations make sure that they learn from their mistakes and ensure thattheir employees are safe, rather than just blame their employees.