Updated July 13, 2021

Below is an updated version of the blog post originally posted on June 30th, 2019. 

For nurses, staying safe from injuries and illnesses isn’t just important for their own sake – it’s important for their patients’ well-being too. After all, a healthy nurse is more able to deliver empathetic, meticulous care.

However, many factors exist within health care facilities that can jeopardize the safety of nurses. To help prevent workplace injuries and keep yourself safe, get to know the risks you face as a nurse, and how you can mitigate them.

Nurse Fatigue

Fifty-five and a half per cent of nurses always or almost always feel fatigued during work, and 80 per cent feel this way after work.

Source: Canadian Nurses Association Fact Sheet

sleep exhaustion and nursing

For nurses, exhaustion results from many different factors. Working long shifts and understaffing in a facility can quickly lead to burnout. Combine this with night shifts, which can lead to higher instances of insomnia or excessive tiredness, exhaustion becomes a significant risk to nurse and patient safety. To help avoid exhaustion at work, be sure to prioritize sleep as much as possible, and speak with your doctor if you find yourself suffering long-term insomnia or excessive tiredness.

 

Violence

In a national study conducted by the CFNU, we found that 61% of nurses reported a serious problem with violence over a recent 12 month period.

Source: Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU)

Workplace violence continues to be a primary issue in health care. Violence, not only from patience but hospital visitors (including patient family), is more likely to occur when a facility is understaffed, has poor security, and permits free public roaming throughout the facility. To help prevent violence within health care facilities, all nurses should be trained to de-escalate violence, and if possible, the facility should ensure the presence of security personnel at all times while maintaining a healthy patient-to-nurse ratio.

Chemical Exposure

Health care facilities often house numerous chemical substances that can be harmful to the health and safety of nurses. Formaldehyde, sterilants, medications, and even latex can cause various health problems, ranging from a simple allergic reaction to serious adverse effects or death. To stay safe around chemicals in your workplace, be sure to wear protective gear such as gloves and eyewear and follow outlines protocols for handling or disposing of contaminated items to limit your exposure.

Needlesticks

Needlestick injury and nursingNurses face the risk of exposure to serious blood-borne viruses, and needlestick injuries can occur during use, assembly, or disposal. Using sharps is unavoidable for most nurses, so it’s imperative to take precautions to reduce your risk of injury. Ensure you follow all recommended guidelines for handling sharps, follow safe recapping procedures where necessary, and use effective disposal systems. Keep any lesions or open wounds covered at all times while on shift and wear protective gear for your eyes, nose, and mouth if splashes from bodily fluids are possible. When a needlestick occurs, thoroughly rinse the site with water, wash the area with soap if possible, and report the incident immediately to your supervisor.

Injuries

Extended shift hours, a fast work pace, and the physical demands of nursing are all associated with the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, which can include symptoms such as pain, tingling, and numbness. Factors that can heighten this risk include exhaustion and improper posture during work tasks such as lifting or bending. To help reduce your risk, pay attention to the ergonomics of your workstation (if applicable), ensure you follow patient lifting protocols and speak to your supervisor if you see an opportunity for improvement within your facility.

Staying safe in the workplace is incredibly important for nurses, who face numerous risk factors each shift. For travel nurses, one of the most important things you can do to stay safe is to ask questions during your orientation and while you are still adjusting to a new contract, as each facility is a little different. You can also take the initiative to enroll in courses or read up on best practices for safety within the health care field.

Violence prevention training is available.  Call us today to learn more about your options as a travel nurse. 1-877-525-3870.

Resources

Blog: Nurses: You Deserve To Be Safe At Work.

Online Course: Violence Prevention

Online Course: Workplace Violence Prevention for Nurses

Handbook: Personal Safety for Nurses