With an aging population in Pennsylvania, nurses are facing even more workplace demands as the number of elderly patients needing hospital and nursing care increase. With that increase comes the risk of nurses injuring themselves on the job.
In 2016, registered nurses working private industry in the United States missed 19,790 days of work because of injury and illness, a significantly higher rate than all other occupations, including construction.
Common injuries for nurses
The most common workplace injuries for registered nurses (RNs) and nursing assistants come from overexertion and trying to lift, reposition or transfer patients with limited mobility. Because health care workers follow an oath do no harm, they can put patient safety and care before their own safety. As a result, nurses and nursing assistants often suffer from back pain, muscle and ligament sprains and tendonitis.
Other common injuries include the following:
- Slip-and-fall injuries when hospital or nursing home floors are wet
- Needle sticks and exposure to biohazardous waste and infectious disease. Nurses deal with using needles and sharp instruments all the time, increasing the risk they will puncture themselves or wound themselves. They also often handle biohazardous waste like blood, fecal matter or discarded vaccines, as well as have greater exposure to tuberculosis and MRSA.
- Chemical exposure and radiation exposure. Nurses working in the ER need to be very careful about radiation exposure and nurses also often have exposure to sterilizing agents and chemotherapy drugs.
- Assault. Sadly, nurses also are at risk of being assaulted on the job by patients or patients’ family members. Those who work in ER or psychiatric care have the highest rates of assault and verbal threats.
Because so many nursing careers have been cut short by injury, the health care industry has started addressing this problem. Here are some of the injury prevention strategies for nurses and nursing assistants:
- Use the lift and transfer equipment at all times when moving patients.
- Speak up when you need help dealing with an unruly patient or call security.
- Get vaccinated.
- Follow proper handwashing techniques and other safety protocols, such as safe needle handling.
- Reduce stress and find ways to relax outside of work, as well as get lots of sleep.
Providing great patient care is always a priority, but nurses need to protect themselves against injury and burnout too. By following these safety tips and helping keep their workplace free from hazards, patients and their caregivers all will benefit.