Med One Blog

Are hospitals dangerous to healthcare workers?

Hospital with do not enter sign

By Ibby Smith Stofer

If you are asking this question, know that it certainly can be if you are a healthcare worker. In fact, these settings consistently have almost double the number of work related injuries and illnesses than most private business settings.

In 2013, the rate of injury or illness in USA hospitals approached nearly 7 work related incidents for every 100 full-time workers. Our care givers in any inpatient setting can be injured from the handling of patients (lifting and turning), slips, trips and falls as well as illness via exposures to bloodborne pathogens, tuberculosis, MRSA and other infectious conditions. There are also harmful chemicals in certain hazardous drugs, sanitizers, disinfectants, etc. Patient violence has also been on the rise as an added concern for caregivers.

While hospitals, nursing homes and other inpatient settings have introduced procedures and policies designed to lessen these risks to the caregivers and patients, OSHA sees the need to increase inspections and has issued education, training, and resource materials to assist leadership in protecting their workers.

Doctors during surgery

Much has been written about this topic and many devices and safety procedures have been implemented, including needle-free devices, patient lift systems and more, but the statistics continue to ring the alarm bells. As more patients choose or are directed to in-home care, nursing homes or assisted living housing, the risks to care givers will multiply manifold. Who will warn or train the husband, wife or child who attends the at-home patient? What different hazards and risks are there in the individual home setting? What protective equipment, supplies and/or devices will be available to assist in this setting? And who will cover the costs for this protection, equipment or service?

There are resources available to help both employers and workers. Some sites to visit for more information include;

www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/healthcare

www.who.int/occupational_health/topics/hcworkers

www.osha.gov/SLTC/healthcarefacilities

www.osha.gov/dsg/hospitals/understanding_problem

We must find ways to reduce these risks and protect our healthcare workers.

What do you think is the answer?