Nurses work in a sometimes stressful and physically demanding profession that requires lifting, bending and reaching. This is why nurse safety is so important.
In an American Nurses Association health risk survey, about 42 percent of nurses said that their jobs involved heavy lifting and repositioning of patients. That leads to the most significant cause of injuries to nurses: back issues.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that hospitals alone have almost 59,000 workplace injuries annually. Regarding lost time at work per 10,000 employees, hospitals have a higher rate of injury risk than either construction or manufacturing.
How Nurses Get Injured
One way to improve nurse safety is to know how most nursing injuries happen.
According to OSHA, the most common workplace injuries in the healthcare field are:
- Overexertion and bodily reaction (48%)
- Slips, trips and falls (25%)
- Contact with objects (13%)
- Violence (9%)
Violence as a nurse safety issue is an eye-opener. About one in four nurses report being physically assaulted, according to the American Nurses Association survey.
When it comes to other injuries, some nurses report sustaining injuries in one event. Others report that injuries begin to happen as they age, caused by years of repetitive lifting such as transferring patients from gurneys to beds.
One issue that many believe will help with nurse safety is higher staffing levels. Many nurses report that fatigue often leads to injuries, as the body gets tired, poor decisions may be made about when and how to lift something on their own.
Forward-thinking medical operations realize that hiring more nurses cuts down on fatigue and workplace injuries. That also saves them money – OSHA reports that the average cost of just one healthcare worker’s compensation claim is $15,860.
This is good news for those earning an RN-to-BSN degree. The number of nursing jobs is expected to grow rapidly – especially in Texas. Adding more jobs to improve nursing safety will increase that growth.
Medical operations are also beginning to implement better workplace safety rules. This effort starts with leadership. Safety plans consider staffing levels, safe practices in the handling of patients, proper scheduling for meal breaks, and better management of shift durations.
Improved patient care is helping to drive this push. A recent survey found that the safety of the healthcare workplace has a strong influence on patient outcomes. On the issue of staffing, the survey found that one in five Michigan nurses know of an incident in which understaffing directly led to a patient’s death.
Congress has been considering the Health Care Workers Protection Act since 2015. It would establish federal standards on the handling of patients and healthcare workplace safety. However, opponents have argued that the law would put too much financial burden on medical operations.
Whether a mandate comes from lawmakers or the healthcare industry tackles the issue on its own, it looks like changes are coming that will improve nurse safety. That is welcome news for those who have committed their career to the profession and helping others.