Nurses, medical assistants and others who work in the health care field have a serious risk for workplace injury. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that the rate of injuries among health care workers is significantly higher than in any other sector.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these are some of the most frequent injuries affecting health care workers, along with strategies to keep yourself safe.
Individuals who care for patients in traditional hospital settings, long-term care facilities and in their homes are at risk for sprains, strains and other injuries resulting from lifting and handling patients. OSHA says that nursing assistants are among the top occupations facing this health risk, which is especially pronounced among those who work with elderly patients who require daily living assistance and/or patients who are obese. Review the safe lifting procedures established by your facility, and ask for help if you have concerns about lifting someone alone.
Workers in hospital settings are at risk for contact with chemical hazards, including but not limited to biological agents, antibiotics, aerosol medications, waste, cleaning products and hormones. Follow your facility’s practices for safe handling of these substances. For example, avoid eating near hazards, report spills, make sure hazards have proper labels and wear personal protective equipment as needed.
Nurses and medical assistants who work in home health may encounter unpredictable and even violent patients. Let your supervisor know if you feel uncomfortable with a specific assignment. Remain calm, and remove yourself from the situation when you feel unsafe. If a patient or family member threatens violence or attacks you, call 911.
The CDC reports that health care workers have an elevated risk for depression, substance use and suicide. If you have mental health concerns, seek help from your doctor. Your facility may also have a protocol in place to assist employees struggling with psychological distress. When an injury or illness results from a person’s job, he or she may have a worker’s compensation claim.