Nurses (and the talented nurse’s aides who assist them) put themselves at risk every day to properly do their jobs. With safety concerns ranging from biological to ergonomic, physical to psychological, nurses and other hospital personnel put themselves in harm’s way every day to help others in need of care.
The following are just a few of the major risks that healthcare workers face, and issues that risk managers and nurse managers seek to mitigate by utilizing a variety of strategies, including frequent detailed evaluations and assessments of work areas and job duties, regular continuing training and education, and the use of personal protective equipment including safety shoes for healthcare.
Illness and Infection
Proximity to ill patients has built-in risk factors. This is one of the many reasons why so much education and training are required for this very difficult caregiving role.It’s also why nurses and other hospital personnel wear personal protective equipment including masks and latex gloves. A safety culture that encourages frequent hand washing and use of antibacterial hand sanitizers is also prevalent in hospital settings.
Cuts and Lacerations
Stabs or cuts from sharp objects are a major risk for nurses, who work with potentially hazardous surgical gear in operating rooms and administer medication via sharp hypodermic and IV needles.
Some of the precautionary measures taken to reduce risk include instituting universal safety precautions and using the proper personal protective equipment, as well as the implementation of more safely designed medical apparatus such as blunt-tip or self-sheathing needles for IVs. Again, thorough and continuing procedural training is essential to ensure nurse safety.
Standing, Lifting and Overexertion
Musculoskeletal injuries are a top concern for nurses and other caregiving healthcare professionals. In fact, 52 percent of nurses experience chronic back pain due to on-the-job injuries[i].
Reaching carrying, lifting, stooping and moving heavy equipment can lead to repetitive strain, chronic pain and acute injury. Among the safety precautions recommended by experts are learning proper lifting techniques (such as bending from the knees, not the back) and wearing safety toe shoes for protection from dropped objects as well as comfortable supportive healthcare shoes for those standing on their feet for long shifts.
Slips, Trips and Falls
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, slips, trips, and falls account for the second largest proportion of lost-workday nonfatal injuries (26%) in the nursing care facilities industry[ii]. Nurses and nurse’s aides must navigate hallways that are obstacle courses containing rolling medical equipment, meal wagons as well as slick, wet floors from spills and frequent mopping.
Preventative measures include making sure walkways are clear of obstructions; posting Wet Floor signage after floors are mopped; the use of cleaners that don’t leave floors slick; and building modern hospitals (retrofitting older ones) with slip-resistant floor materials. Nurses and hospital staff can protect themselves by wearing appropriate slip-resistant footwear, with the proper traction to keep them on their feet in slippery environments[iii].
Once upon a time, you’d only see nurses wearing white—stiff and starched uniforms and “sensible” white shoes. Today, of course, nurses and nurse’s aides can choose from a variety of healthcare safety footwear styles with slip-resistant outsoles, to coordinate with the profusion of unique and colorfully patterned scrubs you see these days!