Nurses serve important roles in a variety of health care environments. They also face a higher risk of illnesses and injuries due to various workplace hazards.
The consequences of an injured or ill nurse reach far beyond just the livelihood of the worker, as employers and patients also feel the effects.
Common occupational hazards
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the highest incidence rate for injuries and illnesses among nurses occurs in hospital settings, and ambulatory services and nursing care facilities come in second and third.
Physical injury is the most common, and trips, falls and fatigue occur because nurses spend so much time standing, walking, stretching and bending. Moving and lifting patients also increases the incidences of back injuries.
Nurses face exposure to hazardous substances such as cleaning chemicals, radiation, drugs, needle sticks and infectious diseases. The long hours that most nurses work also make them vulnerable to overexertion injuries, exhaustion and stress.
Consequences of high-risk environments
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, hospital work is more hazardous than manufacturing and construction. Not only do illnesses and injuries result in missed working days, but there are high related costs in numerous areas. Along with increased workers’ compensation costs due to medical bills and lost wages, hospitals may have to pay other employees overtime or hire temporary staffing. Fatigue among employees also results in decreased morale and productivity.
Patients also suffer in high-risk environments. Fatigue among nurses may result in higher risk of patient infections and medication errors. While lifting a patient, a nurse may also increase the risk of the patient falling, receiving bruises or breaking bones.