Nursing Safety: How to Protect Yourself and Your Patients

Nursing is a noble and rewarding profession, but it also comes with many risks and challenges. Nurses are exposed to various hazards in their work environment, such as infectious diseases, needlestick injuries, violence, stress, and burnout. These hazards can affect not only the health and well-being of nurses, but also the quality and safety of patient care.

Therefore, it is essential for nurses to be aware of the potential dangers they face and take preventive measures to protect themselves and their patients. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the key aspects of nursing safety, such as infection control, sharps safety, patient handling, and workplace violence prevention. We will also introduce you to a reliable and affordable online service that can help you with your academic assignments related to nursing and other topics.

Infection Control

One of the most common and serious threats to nursing safety is the risk of acquiring or transmitting infections. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), health care-associated infections affect millions of patients and health care workers every year, causing significant morbidity, mortality, and economic losses. Some of the common sources of infection in health care settings are:

  • Bloodborne pathogens: These are microorganisms that can cause diseases such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through contact with infected blood or body fluids. Nurses can be exposed to bloodborne pathogens through needlestick injuries, splashes, or cuts from contaminated sharps or instruments.
  • Airborne pathogens: These are microorganisms that can cause diseases such as tuberculosis, measles, and chickenpox through inhalation of droplets or aerosols that contain the infectious agent. Nurses can be exposed to airborne pathogens through close contact with infected patients or contaminated environments.
  • Contact pathogens: These are microorganisms that can cause diseases such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), Clostridium difficile, and norovirus through direct or indirect contact with infected skin, wounds, or surfaces. Nurses can be exposed to contact pathogens through touching or caring for infected patients or contaminated objects.

To prevent and control infections, nurses should follow the standard precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which include:

  • Hand hygiene: This is the most effective and simple way to prevent the spread of infections. Nurses should wash their hands with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rubs before and after contact with patients, body fluids, or potentially contaminated items.
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE): This is the equipment that nurses wear to protect themselves from exposure to infectious agents. PPE may include gloves, gowns, masks, respirators, goggles, or face shields, depending on the type and level of exposure. Nurses should wear appropriate PPE according to the CDC guidelines and dispose of them properly after use.
  • Safe injection practices: This is the set of measures that nurses should follow to prevent needlestick injuries and transmission of bloodborne pathogens. Safe injection practices include using sterile needles and syringes, avoiding recapping or bending needles, disposing of sharps in puncture-resistant containers, and reporting any exposure incidents.
  • Environmental cleaning and disinfection: This is the process of removing or killing microorganisms from surfaces and objects that may be contaminated. Nurses should clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and equipment using appropriate disinfectants and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use.

Sharps Safety

Another major hazard that nurses face is the risk of injury from sharps, such as needles, scalpels, lancets, or scissors. Sharps injuries can cause pain, bleeding, infection, and psychological distress. They can also expose nurses to bloodborne pathogens, such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and HIV. According to the CDC, an estimated 385,000 sharps injuries occur annually among health care workers in hospitals, and nurses are the most affected occupational group.

To prevent sharps injuries, nurses should follow the sharps safety guidelines recommended by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which include:

  • Using safety-engineered devices: These are devices that have built-in features to prevent or reduce the risk of sharps injuries, such as retractable needles, self-sheathing needles, or needleless systems. Nurses should use safety-engineered devices whenever possible and activate the safety mechanism after use.
  • Using safe work practices: These are the behaviors that nurses should adopt to minimize the risk of sharps injuries, such as not recapping or bending needles, not passing sharps by hand, not leaving sharps unattended, and not overfilling sharps containers.
  • Using sharps disposal containers: These are the containers that nurses should use to dispose of used sharps, such as needles, syringes, or blades. Sharps disposal containers should be puncture-resistant, leak-proof, closable, labeled, and color-coded. Nurses should place sharps disposal containers near the point of use and replace them when they are three-quarters full.
  • Using exposure control plan: This is the plan that nurses should follow in case of a sharps injury or exposure to bloodborne pathogens. The exposure control plan should include the steps to take after an exposure, such as washing the wound, reporting the incident, seeking medical evaluation and treatment, and following up the results.

Patient Handling

Another common source of injury for nurses is the manual handling of patients, such as lifting, transferring, repositioning, or mobilizing them. Patient handling can cause musculoskeletal disorders, such as back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, or sprains. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing assistants and registered nurses have the highest rates of musculoskeletal disorders among all occupations, and patient handling is the leading cause of these injuries.

To prevent patient-handling injuries, nurses should follow the patient-handling guidelines recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), which include:

  • Using ergonomic assessment tools: These are the tools that nurses should use to assess the risk of patient handling tasks, such as the NIOSH Lifting Equation, the Patient Assessment Tool, or the Patient Handling Algorithm. These tools help nurses determine the appropriate method, equipment, and staff for each patient-handling task.
  • Using mechanical lifting devices: These are the devices that nurses should use to assist them in patient-handling tasks, such as ceiling lifts, floor lifts, lateral transfer devices, or slide sheets. Mechanical lifting devices can reduce the physical strain and injury risk for nurses and improve the comfort and safety of patients.
  • Using safe patient handling policies and programs: These are the policies and programs that nurses should follow to promote a culture of safety and prevent patient-handling injuries. Safe patient handling policies and programs may include establishing a multidisciplinary committee, providing training and education, conducting audits and evaluations, and ensuring accountability and feedback.

Workplace Violence Prevention

Another serious threat to nursing safety is the risk of violence in the workplace, such as physical assault, verbal abuse, or sexual harassment. Workplace violence can occur from various sources, such as patients, visitors, co-workers, or managers. Workplace violence can cause physical injuries, psychological trauma, emotional distress, and reduced job satisfaction. According to the American Nurses Association, more than one in four nurses have been physically assaulted at work, and more than one in three nurses have been verbally abused at work.

To prevent workplace violence, nurses should follow the workplace violence prevention guidelines recommended by the Joint Commission, which include:

  • Using risk assessment tools: These are the tools that nurses should use to identify the potential sources and factors of workplace violence, such as the Workplace Violence Prevention Toolkit, the OSHA Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers, or the ANA Position Statement on Incivility, Bullying, and Workplace Violence. These tools help nurses develop and implement strategies to prevent and respond to workplace violence.
  • Using de-escalation techniques: These are the techniques that nurses should use to defuse a potentially violent situation, such as the Crisis Prevention Institute’s Nonviolent Crisis Intervention Training, the American Psychiatric Nurses Association’s De-Escalation Training, or the ANA’s Handle with Care Communication Skills. These techniques help nurses communicate effectively, empathize with the aggressor, and resolve the conflict peacefully.
  • Reporting and support systems: These are the systems that nurses should use to report and seek support after a workplace violence incident, such as the OSHA Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses, the ANA’s SafeRN App, or the Employee Assistance Program. These systems help nurses document the incident, access medical and legal assistance, and receive counseling and peer support.

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