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Nurses are at high risk for workplace violence and other injuries

When you think of dangerous jobs, you think cops, firefighters, construction workers. Day in and day out, nurses face serious risk of injury, including harm from violence in the workplace. The greatest danger is from the patients they are trying to help.

Aside from the possibility of being assaulted at work, nurses are at higher risk for harm from just doing their jobs, such as lifting patients or drawing blood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that health care employees have a higher rate of non-fatal workplace injuries than any occupation.

Nurses routinely experience violence on the job

In a recent survey, 3 out of 4 nurses said they have been physically assaulted or verbally abused by patients or visitors. Nurses reported they are commonly subjected to shouting, swearing, grabbing, scratching, kicking and threats of violence. Nurses are especially at risk of harm from patients who have Alzheimer’s, patients who are mentally ill, and patients who arrive at the E.R. under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

In May, two Illinois nurses were taken hostage by an inmate they were treating; one was beaten and raped. In June, a Massachusetts nurse was stabbed multiple times and permanently scarred by a man who was unhappy with his medical care.  In September, an Arkansas nursing director was pushed down a flight of stairs by a belligerent visitor. And we can’t forget the Utah nurse who was manhandled, handcuffed and arrested by a police officer when she stood up for a patient’s rights.

It is not always possible to prevent incidents of violence. But nursing organizations would like to see better training, tighter security and new hospital protocols to ensure the safety of nurses on the front lines of care.

Nurses are routinely hurt in the normal course of their jobs

The CDC has noted that nurses are at greater risk of workplace injury than nearly all other lines of work. That includes back injuries and falls while lifting or assisting patients. It includes exposure to infectious diseases from needle pokes or contact with patients’ blood. In includes slip-and-falls on floors and stairs, injuries from medical equipment and many other hazards.

Nurses understand that risk of injury comes with the territory. But that is not to say that injuries are inevitable. In many cases, injuries are directly related to lax security, understaffing, inadequate training and failure to address known hazards in patient care. Hospitals and clinics have an obligation to provide a safe working environment.

Source: “What’s one of America’s most dangerous jobs? It’s not what you think.” (Washington Post)

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