3 Unexpected Risks Healthcare Workers Face Every Day

October 8, 2015

3 Unexpected Risks Healthcare Workers Face Every Day

gentillydude85 / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

Do you work at a hospital or healthcare clinic? If "yes", then give yourself a huge pat on the back and remind yourself how important your service is to society. 

As important as your job responsibilities are, you should never forget to keep yourself safe in the hectic hospital environment. After all, patients entrust their well-being and health to you. Ironically, every year a number of healthcare workers are at risk of becoming patients themselves.

Don't turn into another sad statistic. Here are 3 of the most common, yet overlooked, risks healthcare workers face on daily basis:

Ask for a Hand - Avoid a Life-Long Injury

 Surprisingly, direct patient care is one the major causes of work-related injuries in the healthcare field. Hospital and clinic workers rank up there alongside construction workers, truck drivers and other physically demanding jobs in terms of musculoskeletal injuries. 

Orderlies, nursing assistants, personal care aids and registered nurses are among the people most likely to suffer from a back injury. Manually lifting and transferring patients is a common practice in most healthcare institutions, causing one of the highest rates of lost workdays due to injury or illness.

This doesn’t go to say that patient care is dangerous in and of itself. If all safety measures are met, the risks drop significantly. Hospitals that have implemented special machinery to lift patients and conduct intensive training among the staff report a staggering 80% drop in lifting injuries.

Workplace culture also plays a role. Responsible hospital administrators who monitor hospital injuries can work together with their personnel to set rules and safety guidelines. Often, the specific demands of the work environment require a unique approach.

When Patients Bring Unintentional Harm to Healthcare Workers...

When Patients Bring Unintentional Harm to Healthcare Workers…

sandiegopersonalinjuryattorney / Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND

It is usually the patients who face greater risks to well-being than hospital personnel. But it’s not uncommon when both patient and care-giver share the same fate. Sometimes the nature of a procedure or the state of the patient requires powerful narcotics or sedatives, which can impair motor skills and coordination and cause confusion. 

Patients who fell during their hospital stay are almost 3 times more likely to have received a sedative. This can lead to additional trouble if the patient is obese, fails to cooperate or becomes confused.

You can easily imagine how nurses and aids can get in harm’s way while treating or moving their patients. A disoriented patient can unintentionally push, smack, drag down or even fall on top of a hospital worker.

Although it may seem a complex problem, harm to caregivers is preventable to a large degree. As long as healthcare workers are kept updated about the medications a patient is being given and their effects, the risk can be minimized.

Sure the patient always comes first, but it is sometimes okay to step away from unsafe situations and ask for help. Trying to handle danger alone can expose both the patient and assigned caregiver to even greater injury.

Hand-Washing: Your New Enemy

Hand-Washing: Your New Enemy

jar / Flickr / CC BY

Hospital hygiene protocols dictate that hands must be washed before and after every clinical task or a procedure. Which makes perfect sense when you’re trying to reduce the spread of various hospital-acquired infections (HAIs).

In an effort to contain the spread of harmful bacteria like Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, for example, ever more complex hygiene products have emerged. On top of this, strict hospital rules help remind people to regularly wash their hands.

While all this effort is successful in eliminating most harmful pathogens, it doesn’t quite solve the problem. Regular hand-washing and some of the ingredients in the products can significantly increase the risk of skin inflammation. The growing number of dermatitis cases undermines the efforts of almost all infection-reduction campaigns.

Although in most causes dermatitis is a mild irritation, it does increase the risk of infections. Damaged or broken skin can carry infections longer and even put people off washing their hands. This creates a vicious cycle, where washing your hands is meant to keep you safe from certain pathogens, but it can also make you more susceptible to those same pathogens.

"Obviously we don't want people to stop washing their hands, so more needs to be done to procure less irritating products and to implement practices to prevent and treat irritant contact dermatitis." - Dr. Stock, researcher at The University of Manchester

Solving the issue is not that hard. Avoid irritant products and regularly use gloves. Skin-care products can also help limit the negative effects of dermatitis.

As with every professional, working in healthcare involves certain risks. But if you follow hospital protocol and rules, and most importantly use your own judgment, you can easily stay out of harm's way. Don't hesitate to ask for help and be willing to seek guidance from the senior members of your team.

If you liked this article, then you may also be interested in the risks MRI technicians face and how dangerous the profession is. To learn more, check out our article: "MRI: Could It Kill You? Patient Care & MRI Tech Training."