In Good Hands: Improving Nurse Safety

A nurse’s job is to keep people healthy, so it’s a grim irony that many nurses encounter unsafe situations in the workplace. From fatigue and needle sticks to falls and workplace violence, a wide range of threats can put nurses’ safety on the line.
Some of those threats are physical hazards:
  • Nurses can sustain sharps injuries that expose them to blood-borne pathogens. Research has found that more than 40% of sharps injuries in hospitals happen to nurses.
  • Nurses may experience physical injuries. Often, these injuries stem from moving and lifting patients. Seven in ten nurses report musculoskeletal pain resulting from their work.
  • Nurses may be exposed to pathogens, chemicals, or other hazardous substances.

Managing those risks is something most nurses do everyday—even when they’re stressed and exhausted. According to the American Nurses Association’s Health Risk Appraisal, 82% of nurses report workplace stress. More than half of nurses regularly work shifts longer than 10 hours. And according to one startling study, 1 in 5 nurses report struggling to stay awake while caring for a patient on at least a monthly basis.
Stress and fatigue can lead to reduced alertness and attention to detail. That often translates to mistakes that can be dangerous for patients and nurses alike. Research has found that the likelihood of a nurse making mistakes almost doubles in a 12-hour shift compared to an 8-hour shift.
Violence & Bullying
In addition to structural hazards in the workplace, many nurses are the targets of workplace bullying or violence. While some nurses are on the receiving end of aggression from a manager or other superior, the culture in many healthcare facilities often results in bullying between nurses.
The Health Risk Appraisal found that 40% of nurses have been the target of aggression from a person in a higher level of authority, and almost half are victim to verbal or non-verbal aggression from peers at work. On top of that, 42% have experienced verbal or physical threats from patients or their patients’ family members.
Bullying and aggression can increase stress and make for a miserable workplace. Workplace incivility is also one of the strongest predictors of nurse burnout.
Making Safety a Priority
While nurses can take steps to minimize stress and fatigue, they need support from their employers, too. Long shifts and mandatory overtime are beyond an individual’s control. And exhausted nurses are often reluctant to take breaks if they don’t think their patients will be monitored appropriately. Workplaces must help to address fatigue and safety by enacting policies and procedures that minimize the risks.
As caregivers and role models, safety must be a priority for the nation’s nurses. As one of the domains of the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Grand Challenge, we’re inspiring nurses and their partner organizations to take action to improve safety.
c987219becfc64baa8a999f8eee281c1-huge-anHave you joined the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation (HNHN) Grand Challenge yet? Join us today!
Source List
  • The American Nurses Association’s Health Risk Appraisal - Exploratory Data Analysis, November 30, 2016
  • Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation: A synthesis of research regarding the status of nurses’ health in the United States, 2016. (White Paper)
  • American Nurses Association Position Statement on Incivility, Bullying, and Workplace Violence, 2015
Posted by Jaime M Dawson on Feb 8, 2017 10:55 AM CST

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We have to be the change. Safety will improve if we speak up and out. 
  • Posted Mon 12 Jun 2017 07:29 PM CDT
When I started nursing, I never thought that safety would be an issue. I always thought that the hospital was one of the safest places to be. I never thought that I would get stuck with a needle because I was always careful. I did get stuck once with a patient's lancet that they brought from home. She dropped it and my instinct was to try to catch it before it fell. Of course I clasped my hand and not until I took my glove off did I notice that I had been stuck. It is very scary and stressful. The hospital is full of different occupational hazards and there are many things set in place to make it better, but sometimes things cannot be avoided.

To speak to bullying and violence in the work place, I have noticed a lot of nurses can be very passive aggressive. This culture of not speaking directly to the person you may have an issue with can cause more harm because you are talking about them to others and they have no idea that you are upset, which can in the long run turn into bullying or even worse. With social media expanding these days, online violence can get worse and really ruin people's lives. Nurse are subject to all kinds of things and the culture has to change.
  • Posted Fri 24 Feb 2017 10:29 AM CST

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