Many people only go to hospitals when they are ill, but for medical practitioners, it’s just another day in the workplace. While these hospitals, clinics, and other practices provide medical care and assistance to people who suffer from medical conditions, they can also be home to number of hazards. These hazards can put at risk not only the health and well-being of the patients, but also those of the health providers who are working together to care for them.
Here are some of the most common workplace hazards for health professionals:
The hospital is home to various chemicals that are used to treat diseases, disinfect working spaces, and protect health workers from getting in contact with possibly infectious substances. Latex, a material present in gloves, tapes, catheters, and many medical supplies and equipment, can irritate the skin of health workers and cause contact dermatitis or trigger latex allergy. Cleaning substances and medicines, such as antineoplastic agents and ethylene oxide, are associated with mutagenic and carcinogenic effects and severe allergic reactions. Nurses and doctors should be screened for latex allergy, while those who do develop contact dermatitis may use non-latex supplies that provide the same level of protection. The administration should also keep the staff updated on the current government and health policies in handling possibly harmful chemicals.
Diseases and Biological Hazards
Medical workers are also at risk of acquiring diseases by mishandling contaminated needles, sharps, and biological samples from patients. Hepatitis B is the most prevalent work-related infectious disease in the United States. Nurses are also vulnerable to tuberculosis, which they can acquire from undiagnosed patients coming in for consultation. To lessen injuries that may acts as the point of infection in the body, health workers are encouraged to use syringes with protective features. Proper use of protective gear and frequent hand washing also play a part in keeping doctors and nurses in their best health.
Musculoskeletal injuries or prolonged body pain is common across all occupations. In the health sector, home health providers and nursing aides are most prone to this condition because part of their routine tasks is lifting patients that weigh around 90 to 250 pounds on a daily basis. Ergonomics, or the study of the relation between the workers and their working environment, can greatly lessen the risk for this kind of injury. Administrators can provide ergonomic assistive devices to help patients achieve mobility without overexerting their caregivers.
Occupational Stress and Burnout
Medical practitioners often experience work overload, inconvenient shifts, and other work stressors in addition to the emotional strain of providing excellent care for ill or dying patients. These can cause workplace stress, or as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines it: harmful physical and emotional responses that occur when the requirements of the job do not match the capabilities, resources, or needs of the worker. The staff and administration must work together to address the problem of work stressors. The management should be ready to provide support and training for their staff, while the staff should know when to ask for help and to try to practice stress management techniques to alleviate the effects of constant stress.