The health care industry is one that is viewed by many as being one of the safest that exists, because it provides care for the sick and injured. Such a nature makes it hard for anyone to comprehend how it could be dangerous, save for the potential for exposure to illnesses. However, there is much more danger than people understand. This goes double for the staff members that must interact with patients.
The Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OHSA) had record of over 250,000 work related injuries to unique full-time staff members. This means that just about seven of every 100 full time employees suffered injuries.
Health care employees engaged in direct patient care such as nurses face a very high risk of injury. This is even more so than persons in construction, because of the variety of injury types that can occur. One way to help mitigate the risk is to put proper safety standards in place at hospitals.
To properly develop these standards, policy makers must consider the main ways in which staff members are likely to suffer injuries or develop illnesses in the line of duty. Based on information published by OHSA, these include:
While there are other sources of injuries, the combination of these accounts for 99% of the injuries to hospital staff members. Mitigating these issues requires implementing adequate safety measures. Some of these are discussed below.
A Proper Safety Culture
Establishing safety norms among staff members Is one of the best ways to reduce injuries. This is because staff members begin to work in a way that is conducive to their well being. Sometimes, implementing the various aspects of this culture can be a bit difficult, so it is, therefore, recommended to get staff engaged through various incentives.
Some companies offer regards to staff members for keeping OHSA recorded injuries low in the workplace. Of course, this means that they need to understand injury categories, and an investment in training must be made for this. OHSA provides training and information to help employees get acquainted with the dangers they face, and what they can do to protect themselves.
This culture requires the establishment of various safety measures and protocols, which must be versatile enough to protect staff members from various dangers including harmful patients, disasters, bodily injuries, exposure to illness, and acts of violence.
This mostly refers to moving patients from one location to another. About 48% of hospital related injuries occur from improper patient handling. This is because proper techniques aren’t being utilized in reaching, bending and lifting, which leads to over-exertion.
This is a huge issue when you consider the following facts:
To make a dent in this issue, investments are required in the areas of technique training for lifting teams, procuring the necessary equipment needed to move patients, and training/implementation of proper ergonomic lifting procedures. These investments help to keep staff members comfortable, as they maintain patient comfort as well.
Healthcare facilities must maintain adequate records for injuries, illnesses, and acts of violence when staff members are involved. Some of these are legally required to be reported to either OHSA, or various state agencies. Worker safety laws also dictate specific records that must be kept, and the time period they should be kept for.
Most injuries can only be discovered if employees report them. Therefore, adequate measures must be put in place to ensure employees get comfortable with following the required process for doing so. If this is not done, then executives and administrators cannot properly understand and adjust for safety shortcomings in the system.
Some of these recording measures also help to reduce safety hazards. One of these is a recording policy that is attached to a zero-tolerance policy on violence. When these are implemented together, physical violence towards staff usually declines.
This is another area that is the cause of many injuries and mistakes. The American Nurses Association (ANA) carried out a study, which indicated that the following problems are reduced when schedules are adequately optimized:
Patients also experience greater satisfaction from this as their treatment is usually smooth. Note that fatigued nurses tend to have a greater number of mistakes than well-rested ones.
Shift creation is another crucial area as it can be a huge difference maker in the condition of nurses. Some hospitals switch nurses between day and night shifts regularly so that everyone can get a balance of both worlds. However, this throws the body out of balance as no regular sleep cycle can be achieved. Therefore, nurses who are switched tend to be more fatigued and mistake prone than those who get a more consistent time.
Technology has been used to improve various areas and medicine is no different. When used correctly, these systems allow important information to be easily accessible when it is needed, which makes a big difference in the health and wellness of both patients and staff members.
A very important injury reduction mechanism is real-time location tracking systems (RTLS). These allow for geo-location of staff members, patients, and various assets in real-time. The information provided by these systems is sometimes the difference maker whenever the potential arises for an injury to occur.
Another useful technology is personal panic alarms for staff members. Healthcare employees such as nurses routinely enter areas that are isolated. These include storage closets and patient rooms. Such low-traffic areas put the staff members at a higher risk for being targets of violence as said acts are not likely to be seen.
These alarms can not only give a signal that something is afoot, but when combined with an RTLS, they can also allow relevant parties to locate employees in danger before they are injured.