For a nurse, the workplace isn't just somewhere to earn a paycheck or help those who need it. It's also a place where they could very easily suffer serious or even life-changing injuries. This profession can be far more dangerous than a lot of people realize, and it is important to shed some light on the risks.
With that in mind, here are some of the top injury risks as addressed by organizations like the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA):
- Moving patients: When nurses have to move obese or combative patients, they can suffering back injuries, knee injuries, shoulder injuries and much more.
- Lifting patients: Similarly, lifting patients — particularly those who suffer from obesity or health issues that mean they can't assist the nurses — can cause the same injuries as helping to move them in any other fashion.
- Assault: As noted, combative patients sometimes try to resist what nurses are doing. They may have mental issues that make it hard for them to understand what's going on, for instance, and they'll lash out at the very people who are trying to help them.
- Chemical exposure: Nurses have to work around a lot of potentially dangerous chemicals, from chemotherapy drugs to sterilizing agents. Improper exposure due to a spill or because of poor personal protection equipment can cause serious injuries.
- Radiation exposure: Even “safe” levels of radiation exposure for patients may prove dangerous to nurses because they see that level of exposure on such a consistent basis. Above-average risks present themselves to nurses in the ER or the radiology department, for instance.
- Overwork and stress: Nursing is not easy. Nurses often have very long hours in a stressful environment. This takes a toll, both mentally and physically. The ways that stress impact your body are too many to list. Nurses may also suffer from fatigue, exhaustion and emotional issues as a result of what they've seen.
- Exposure to infectious diseases: Working in a hospital means constant exposure to those who are sick and injured. When those sicknesses include things like HIV, tuberculosis, MRSA, and hepatitis B, nurses must be very careful not to pick up these diseases themselves. It can sometimes happen when nurses accidentally stick themselves with a used needle. If you think the odds of that are low, you should know that it happens about 800,000 times per year.
As you can see, taking this profession absolutely puts you in harm's way. You do get to help those who need it. You do get to have a career that you love. But there is a trade-off. You must know what legal options you have if you get injured on the job.