To many patients, nurses appear like superheroes — swooping down from the sky to save the day with unparalleled skill and style! And while they pull us back from the clutches of danger many times, workplace hazards for nurses are someting they face on a daily basis.
Our celebration of National Nurses Week would be remiss without acknowledging just how difficult the job can be at times. As a whole, nurses face a unique set of workplace hazards, some of which even the most skilled of professionals have trouble avoiding. Since it’s no secret that balancing your mind, body, and spirit is part of a life, we’ll explore what to watch out for in your day-to-day nursing duties.
3 Common Workplace Hazards for Nurses
1. Infectious Diseases
Though it could seem obvious, the risk of contracting a disease as a result of coming into contact with patients is one of the top workplace hazards for nurses. Considering that nurses can work in a variety of settings beyond hospitals — think nursing homes, prisons, community health centers — it’s likely they’ll have to avoid coming into contact with various fluids.
As far as work-related infectious diseases go, Hepatitis B (HBV) is the single most prevalent illness contracted by those working in high-risk medical environments. Blood is a major bodily fluid the virus uses to transfer itself, also including saliva, semen, and feces. Not only that, but one percutaneous stick from a contaminated needle or sharp instrument may be all it takes to contract any number of contagions. Safely disposing of needles, as well as proper sterilization procedures like wearing gloves and hand washing are all ways to avoid these workplace hazards for nurses!
2. Back Injuries
Believe it or not, back injuries rank second among all causes of injuries for all occupations, according to studies from the National Center for Biotechnology Information. It’s estimated that 40,000 nurses report back injuries on a yearly basis, making it one of the more noteworthy workplace hazards for nurses. Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and nurses’ aides actually experience this type of injury most of all!
If you do work in an environment where heavy lifting is needed, be sure to take the proper steps to ensure you do so safely. Warm up your muscles, use a wide stance, keep your arms straight, and lift with your legs and abdominal muscles without twisting or side bending during the process. For a full rundown on the appropriate ways to avoid back injuries, check out this guide by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
It’s tasteless, odorless, and otherwise invisible, although radiation is among the most insidious workplace hazards for nurses to come in contact with. Although the risks are hard to pinpoint, cumulative exposure can cause some serious damage. Possible symptoms of radiation exposure include:
- nausea / vomiting
- bone marrow suppression
- congenital defects in offspring
Nurses are typically trained in radiation safety, and yet some are unaware of the extent of their exposure to radiation. Coming into contact with radioactive materials, ionizing radiation during diagnostic and therapeutic patient care, or even while holding patients for portable radiography or fluoroscopy procedures are all sources that can accumulate over the years. If you work closely with radioactive materials, always be sure to wear a badge or ring dosimeter to monitor your long-term exposure.
Some of the other most common workplace hazards for nurses include stress, toxic exposures, and even violence — each speaking to the more dangerous side of nursing! Although, if we didn’t have the strong men and women working to push past these hazards we’d be a lot worse off in so many ways. Beyond National Nurses Week 2017, here’s to you nurses of America!