Making the decision to become a nurse is a tough decision. The nurse has to put aside their feelings, beliefs and judgments in order to provide the best possible care for their patients. Being a nurse can be a rewarding career but there are risks associated with the profession. Nurses not only face injuries from patient care but they also face violence in the workplace.
Nurses face injury from needle sticks, handling hazardous drugs such as cancer drugs, musculoskeletal injuries from lifting and transferring patients, exposure to body fluids, and violence in the workplace. Nurses are at a higher risk of injury if they do shift work. Working long hours back to back can wear the nurse out and increase the risks of injury to the patient and to the nurse.
Nurses are at an increased risk of injuries from needle sticks. Infectious diseases, especially blood-borne viruses are transmitted by needle stick injuries. The greatest concern is injection of injection fluids, especially blood even with the potential for injecting hazardous drugs. Some hospitals report one third of nursing staff suffer such injuries each year. Nurses sustained the largest number of exposures at 485 and needle stick injuries were the most common at 320 (Needlestick Injuries, 2005). Nurses can lower their risk of needle stick injuries by not recapping the needle, placing the used needle in the sharps container and using needles where the needle is retracted back after the medication is injected.
Nurses can experience injuries from hazardous drugs. Nurses that have to administer hazardous drugs daily are at an increased risk for experiencing problems from the drugs. Studies have shown that workplace exposures to hazardous drugs can cause both acute and chronic health effects such as skin rashes, adverse reproductive outcomes (including infertility, spontaneous abortions, and congenital malformations), and possibly leukemia and other cancers (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2013). Nurses can reduce these risks by not handling certain drugs if they are pregnant and using gloves when passing medications.
Having to turn and transfer patients on a daily basis can cause injury to the nurse’s back. Nurses have to constantly turn and help transfer patients. Doing this without using proper body mechanics can injure the nurse’s back and put that nurse out of work. The nurse should not lift a patient without another nurse or a UAP to help. Nurses should also try to utilize lifts to help when transferring patients.
Exposure to body fluids is one of the biggest risks that nurses face in the workplace. Nurses are exposed to body fluids constantly when providing care for a patient. Exposure can come from needle sticks or from dressing changes, emptying catheters, or dumping emesis basins. Nurses can prevent exposure by using standard precautions. Nurses should wear gloves and wear appropriate PPE for the situation.
Nurses can experience violence in the workplace....