June is National Safety Month and a good time to take a look at the environments we work in to see just how safe they are and how safe they should be. For nurses this means taking a closer look at the clinical setting and noting if certain standards are being met.
There are some aspects of caregiving which pose higher safety risks than others. The American Nurses Association considers the following three areas as crucial for workplace safety.
Safe Patient Handling and Mobility
You may be familiar with the concept of lifting with your legs when performing manual labor to avoid using the muscles in your back and possibly straining or injuring yourself. For nurses, this is a constant concern when lifting and moving patients.
Patients come in all shapes and sizes, which can make direct patient handling difficult. In the majority of instances when nurses must help move a patient, the best practice is to take advantage of tools designed for the type of move taking place. These can range from the common wheelchair and gurney to full lift slings and pivot discs.
Even with tools, before moving a patient it’s necessary to assess what it will take to move them safely, keeping in mind not only the patient’s safety, but your own. You should also consider asking for help. Having a second set of hands can go a long way towards avoiding potentially hazardous situations.
The risk of exposure to possibly deadly blood borne pathogens is a serious one in any healthcare environment. While protocols are in place for the safe handling and disposal of needles, injuries can still occur.
Consider these following tips from the ANA’s Preventing Needlestick Injuries Checklist:
- Prior to procedure using sharps:
o Ensure all equipment is available within arm’s reach
o Ensure lighting is adequate
o Instruct patient to avoid sudden movement
- During procedure:
o Maintain visual contact with sharps during use
o Do not pass sharps by hand; place and retrieve from a predetermined centralized location
o Alert other staff when placing or retrieving sharps
o Ensure all sharps are accounted for and visible
o Transport reusable sharps in secured closed container
o Keep fingers away from tip of device when disposing, and avoid placing hands close to the opening of the container
This final topic is something which you do not have direct control over, but will impact everything you do during your shift.
All employers must adhere to the standards set out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, more commonly known as OSHA. As you can imagine, when it comes to clinical settings there are even more standards in place than the typical office work environment. Though not in your direct control, nurses can help keep their clinical space up to code by being aware of regulations and recognizing a violation when they see one.
Check out these free eTools from OSHA which can help you understand the potential hazards which may crop up in your workplace, as well as possible solutions, recommended best practices and additional information about each issue.
Remember, you have the right to a safe work environment.
What steps do you take to help ensure safe working conditions?
By Ryan Segovich
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