Hospitals are the destination for many injured or ill people, but that doesn't mean that these large institutions aren't without their own dangers. Hospitals carry the same risks as a variety of other industries, with the added dangers that come from infectious diseases and other illnesses. Doctors, nurses and medical assistants who work in hospitals should keep an eye out for these common hazards.
1. Patient violence
Although medical personnel work to care for and heal patients, patients don't always feel the same way back to doctors and nurses. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rated violence against medical staff as one of the biggest dangers of working in a hospital. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that health care professionals saw 8.3 assaults per every 10,000 workers compared to 2 out of 10,000 for all other private-sector jobs.
Violence can range from verbal threats to slapping, mugging or homicide. The CDC pointed to examples where a nurse's arm was broken and another where an angry family member killed a nurse in the emergency room. Hospital areas that present the most risk include waiting rooms, emergency rooms, geriatric wards and psychiatric units.
The CDC recommended that employers work to install emergency protocols, alarms, emergency exits for staff, security escorts in the parking lot and great lighting. This isn't the typical workplace risk, but it's a real danger for health care employees.
2. Slips and falls
Health care professionals aren't exempt from slips and falls in the workplace. In fact, hospital floors can easily become slippery or slick because of spills or frequent cleaning. Nonslip shoes are a great tool for anyone working in a hospital who wants to keep the focus on caring for patients rather than the floor's traction. These work shoes come in comfortable and fashionable styles as well to help nurses and doctors who want to look professional while on their feet all day.
3. Exposure to harmful substances
The American College of Physicians Hospitalist published a list of the ECRI Institute's top 10 hospital dangers. Among the top dangers were exposure to X-ray radiation and CT scans. These risks can apply to both health care professionals and patients, but employees may find themselves at a greater risk because of frequent exposure. There are a number of other chemicals, equipment and tools that can present danger, such as lasers, needles and acids.
Physical and procedural safeguards may be the best way for employers to protect their health care professionals. Monitoring risk can also help each hospital determine which areas may need new procedures in place. For example, if a hospital has frequent injuries related to the radiology department, safety procedures should be changed.
When health care professionals spend all day working with sick patients, they're bound to put themselves at risk for those illnesses. Sometimes the illnesses are mild, like a cold, or preventable, like the flu. However, there are other diseases, like tuberculosis, which are dangerous and can affect a large percentage of the health care community.
Hospitals should use frequent testing to limit the spread of tuberculosis and deliver the care needed to health care professionals. The biggest risk to doctors and nurses are patients who have tuberculosis but are unaware that they do and can spread it. The CDC advised hospitals to screen patients for the disease, use preventative treatments, install physical limitations on the patient in question and investigate all outbreaks. There are other diseases that fall under the same risks, and similar precautionary measures should be taken.
Hospitals are unique work environments that present doctors, nurses and other medical personnel with the complex task of navigating occupational hazards while delivering top-notch care to patients.
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