Nurse safety: 3 dangers hospital leaders must know

Nursing staff face a number of safety hazards, to the point that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced increased scrutiny of hospitals' safety precautions. But there are several threats to nurses that hospital leaders must address, according to Becker's Hospital Review.

Both hospitals and government agencies have historically failed to take proper precautions against nurse injuries, due in part to a series of court rulings that defanged OSHA's regulatory powers. Hospitals must be aware of--and take action to prevent-- the top causes of nurse injuries, Medline Chief Nursing Officer Martie Moore, R.N., told the publication. They include:

Injuries: Workplace injuries are higher for healthcare workers than any other industry, and nurses suffer more than 35,000 injuries a year to their feet, hands, shoulders and back. Several factors determine the likelihood of injury, Moore said, including nurse age and hospital environment. An important first step to reducing nurse injuries is establishing a "safe patient handling" program. The Department of Veterans Affairs established such a program to avoid injuries from manually lifting patients and reduced injuries 30 percent at Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Medical Center in Lorna Linda, California.

Bloodborne pathogens:  Although glove and hand-hygiene guidelines have reduced the risk of exposure to pathogens, the threat of needle sticks and splashes remains, according to Moore. Hospitals, she said, must make sure clinicians are cautious during the care delivery process and be sure to wear proper protective eye gear.

Hand-washing related dermatitis: As important as hand hygiene is to healthcare safety, a study published in February found hospitals' hand-washing protocols may increase nurses' risk of dermatitis, which in turn creates a greater risk of infection. "Leadership needs to think about gloves and hand care differently. This is a proactive cost to preserve their healthcare workforce," Moore told Becker's.

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