Top 5 Most Common Nurse Safety Issues
By Melanie Hammontree, contributor
Travel nurses face countless hazards every day while on assignment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 21 percent of all nurses experience some type of injury throughout their careers. For this reason, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has gotten stricter about the rules and regulations pertaining to the profession.
For more information on a position near you, check out the Travel Nursing job database and search by specialty or location.
Top Safety Issues and Ways to Prevent Them
According to OSHA, healthcare facilities have the highest rates of personal injury when compared to other workplace settings. Consider the top five common dangers RNs experience while on the job.
1. Musculoskeletal injuries
The major source of injuries for RNs is musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs. These injuries occur when you try to help a patient get out of bed or simply lift a patient to turn them. According to OSHA, strains and sprains are the most common injuries, with the back and shoulders most commonly affected. These statistics show that as many as 20 percent of all nurses eventually leave direct care positions due to the strenuous nature of the job.
These injuries can result in higher healthcare costs and increased employer costs due to disability claims and insurance.
2. Work overload
The role of an RN is often a demanding position that requires working multiple shifts each week. Unlike other positions that typically offer downtime, nursing usually presents one stressful situation after another. For this reason, burnout is common among RNs. According to the National Institute of Health, this burnout can affect patient outcomes.
3. Exposure to disease
All healthcare professionals experience some risk of exposure to blood-borne pathogens (like HIV and HCV) and airborne infectious diseases (like SARS and tuberculosis). According to the CDC, approximately 385,000 injuries occur to nurses from needle sticks each year. This exposes these individuals to a wide variety of illnesses.
Sharps injuries include stab wounds that occur from penetration of a scalpel or needle that exposes the nurse to infected blood and other body fluids.
4. On-the-job violence
On-the-job violence often occurs with nurses when staffing is low and a nurse has to work in a remote location in a high-crime area. High rates of violence are also reported in many emergency rooms. According to the American Nursing Association, workplace violence includes any physical or psychologically damaging actions that occur while at work. Workplace violence comes from many sources. In fact, the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) reports more than one in 10 emergency room nurses have reported some degree of violence on the job throughout their careers.
5. Chemical dangers
Because RNs are often exposed to cleaning products, drugs, sterilants and disinfectants, they need to know how to protect themselves from the harsh substances. These chemical dangers can cause rashes, burns and even serious illness. Chemotherapy drugs are another source of hazards, as well as latex for some nurses.
The American Nursing Association consistently advocates for safer work environments and reduced toxic chemical exposure. This includes safer cleaning substitutes, chemical component testing and labels on all products that warn of potential hazards.
While work-related dangers are different for nurses than in most other industries, there are still various issues that all RNs need to be aware of before they step foot on the job. Whether you take part in safety classes through the CDC's National Safety Month or sign up for OSHA training, it's important to understand and be aware of the daily dangers in order to stay safe throughout each shift.