Occupational Risks and Hazards of Nursing

Nurses operate in a fast-paced environment. As a result, they experience numerous occupational risks and hazards.

These risks range from slip hazards to virus exposure and even dangerous patients.

According to the International Hazard Datasheets on Occupation, there are at least seven primary dangers nurses experience.

It includes accident hazards,  biological hazards, chemical hazards, physical hazards, and ergonomic, psychosocial, and organizational factors.

Workplace Hazards for Nurses:

  • Accident hazards
  • Biological hazards
  • Chemicals hazards
  • Physical hazards
  • Ergonomic, psychosocial, and organizational factors

The following section covers these hazards and other issues healthcare workers experience day-to-day.

Skin and Respiratory Hazards

ER nurses are responsible for daily cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilizing medical equipment.

It ensures patients remain safe from contamination that can cause infections and diseases.

It also reduces the health risks of coworkers and those operating in the facility.

Nevertheless, these agents can damage the skin, mucous membranes, and respiratory system.

As a result, it puts nurses at risk of various injuries if these chemicals/agents contact their bodies.

Hazardous Chemicals

Nurses work with and around various medicines, gases, and hazardous chemicals.

It includes anesthetic gases, drugs, radiation, formaldehyde, ethylene oxide, cleaning supplies, disinfectants, and other chemicals.

As a result, chemicals must remain properly secured and correctly used.

Misuse or mishandling of these chemicals can cause numerous adverse reactions.

It ranges from headaches and nausea to reproductive issues and further medical complications.

Sharp Objects

Nurses utilize various tools, including needles, incision tools, syringes, blades, scissors, and other equipment.

Therefore, its essential nurses utilize these tools properly and secure them when not in use.

Putting these tools in a pocket or leaving them out can increase their chances of being harmed by sharp objects.

In some cases, nurses may also risk danger from unruly patients accessing these sharp tools.

Electrical Hazards

4. Emergency nurses may contact hot surfaces, faulty electrical equipment, and other similar objects, which can cause skin burns and irritations.

Infectious Diseases | Illnesses

Nurses treat numerous sick, ill, and contagious patients throughout the day.

As a result, they are at risk of infection from airborne pathogens, viruses, bacteria, and body fluids.

Healthcare workers must utilize proper protective gear to minimize their risk and keep themselves and their patients safe.

They must also use sterilized equipment and follow the best sanitization practices to reduce the spread of infectious agents.

Nevertheless, protective gear isn’t 100% effective, and some healthcare workers remain susceptible to diseases.

Bodily Strain

Nurses may suffer from musculoskeletal issues and back pains due to various reasons.

Firstly, some nursing departments handle heavy patients regularly by moving them to various areas and beds.

For instance, emergency room nurses transport patients across various floors, beds, or operating rooms.

According to Penn Medicine News, transporters can cover anywhere from 7 – 10 miles in a single work shift.

Nurses also spend long hours standing and walking throughout the hospital, which causes fatigue, and back and leg stress.

As a result, they must wear adequate footwear and take regular breaks to minimize bodily strain.

Mental and Physical Burnout

Many nurses experience stress and work-related burnout.

It results from long shifts, stressful environments, night work, and other psychological and organizational factors.

In short-staffed facilities, registered nurses often manage many patients.

As a result, they’re susceptible to issues like decreased focus, reduced patient care, and increased medical error risks.

Workplace Violence

Reports of workplace violence are increasing as hospitals become more populated with ill and injured patients.

As a result, police officers sometimes accompany nurses to maintain their safety with violent patients.

Those suffering from mental illnesses or inundated with drugs and alcohol may risk instigating violent acts.

Healthcare facilities can implement several steps to decrease the chances of violence experienced by nurses and staff.

For instance, they can advocate for changes in legislation.

It includes increasing the penalty for perpetrators causing or attempting to cause threats, violence, and harm to staff.

Hospitals and institutions also offer training to resolve and manage potential violence and threatening situations.

How Hospitals Avoid These Situations

The International Labor Organization (ILO) has provided several pointers to keep the emergency department safe for emergency room health workers:

  • Nurses should comply with all safety instructions and conduct periodic inspections of electrical medical equipment.
  • Nurses and staff should keep all work areas and passageways clean, visible, and uncluttered.
  • All nurses must follow infection control procedures and the handling and disposal of sharp objects appropriately.

The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) supports developing and utilizing critical incident stress management therapies and activities.

ENA also supports the use of personal stress management strategies such as:

  • Practiced relaxation
  • Regular meditation
  • A healthy exercise routine
  • Group therapy
  • Guided imagery therapy
  • Humor therapy
  • Frequent massage’s

The ENA recognizes the impact of workplace violence and the need for a program to prevent and limit such outcomes.

Some of these programs include:

  • Educating nurses, staff, and patients about potentially violent situations and how to prevent them from occurring
  • Facilitating the appropriate security measures needed to deal with workplace violence effectively
  • The proper identification, reporting, and protocols of incidents

Minimizing Hazardous Risks

Most individuals (patients included) aren’t aware of how dangerous it can be to work in a hospital.

Registered nurses typically utilize procedures and protective gear to defend themselves from hazards and threats.

They must also understand what to look for and avoid to minimize injuries, dangers, and infections.

In some cases, hospitals become quickly become overcrowded.

As a result, nurses must effectively multitask to balance and prioritize their patients and their time.

Excellent communication and teamwork are essential to keep the patient flow running smoothly and quickly address issues.

From an institution standpoint, it’s necessary to ensure nurses receive the equipment and support their need to succeed.

Short-staffed facilities put undue strain on the healthcare workers who provide direct patient care.

As a result, they must ensure the facility has good management, adequate staffing, and optimized patient care systems.

They must also adequately protect healthcare workers from illnesses, workplace hazards, and unruly patients.

In short, healthcare facilities need reliable medical systems, management, and staffing to adequately support hospital staff and patients.

They also need good policies, procedures, and practices.

It ensures everyone understands their roles and follows the appropriate steps to maintain good patient care and safety. 

The Emergency Nurses Association

The emergency care environment is physically and emotionally stressful for healthcare workers and nurses.

In some cases, these experiences may even be traumatic.

Conclusively it’s easy to determine that many nurses face consistent burnout from their work.

The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) has assessed the possible causes of stress in this field.

It recognizes the following contributing factors as possible causes for increases in emergency room nurses’ stress levels.

Critical incidents cause strong emotional feelings/responses.

These responses can interfere with the nurse’s ability to perform their duties effectively in the workplace.

Natual Emergencies Include:

  • Mass casualties
  • Natural and unnatural disasters
  • The unexpected death of a child or coworker

Long-term demands may also increase a nurse’s stress level.

Some of These Demands Include:

  • Long work hours
  • Job insecurity
  • Poor communication
  • Insufficient management
  • Increased potential for workplace violence

The ENA has determined that unresolved stress-related issues can result in absenteeism, sleep disorders, burnout, emotional difficulties, and other health problems.

Final Words

Nurses are responsible for patient care and team safety.

In emergency care settings, they’re also accountable for treating patients during a critical phase of their illness or injury.

Thus, registered nurses play a vital role in maintaining the protection and well-being of patients and the medical unit.

These healthcare specialists save lives, educate people, and provide a better standard of living.

Nevertheless, they face various hazards in the workplace.

It includes workplace violence, dealing with hazardous material, working with sharp tools, electrical equipment, and gases.

They also face unexpected losses and casualties and work in physically and psychologically demanding environments.

There are many compromises in one’s safety, comfort, and well-being to save another as a registered nurse.

Nevertheless, the hard-working heroes find happiness and satisfaction by helping others and saving lives.

The risks nurses take to ensure everyone’s safety, health, and well-being are no less than exceptional.