The health and safety of practicing nurses is an issue that is less talked about but it is still a major problem for Licensed Practical Nurses (Funnell, 2008). Occupational health and safety risks have increasingly gone high because many governments and healthcare organizations have done very little in addressing the problem. Occupational health and safety risks are a clinical problem that practicing nurses have been facing for a long time but those with the responsibility of taking care of the interests of nurses have continued to ignore the occupational health and safety issues affecting practicing nurses (Funnell, 2008). Research findings indicate that almost 50 % of nurses experience illnesses and injuries in the course of their duty every year but most of them do not report to the authorities concerned (Ivanov, 2008). Nurses have therefore continued to suffer silently from occupational illnesses and injuries. Nursing has therefore become one of the most hazardous professions in the world.
Practicing nurses experience excessive levels of stress that can affect their health in a great way (Ivanov, 2008). A stressed nurse is prone to accidents because their level of concentration is always very low. One of the issues that stress practicing nurses is poor working conditions. Some of the nursing procedures are very risky and some nurses carry out the procedures without proper safety equipment. This exposes them to injuries and illnesses because of the hazardous nature of the operations (Ivanov, 2008). Lack of adequate safety equipment exposes nurses to occupational health risks, especially when treating patients with contagious diseases. Many practicing nurses feel unsafe at their places of work because of the risk of injuries they are exposed to (Ellis, 2003). The management of many healthcare organizations ignores the fact that nurses are also human beings and can be infected by illnesses just like other people.
An occupational health and safety risk is still a major clinical problem because there is no proper legislation to protect the interests of practicing nurses (Ellis, 2003). Patients and relatives may be a potential security risk for practicing nurses but this issue is normally not given any thought by management. Nurses deal with patients from different backgrounds and different temperaments where some of them may be violent. The majority of security risks that practicing nurses get exposed to normally come from within the organization. The possibility of dealing with violent patients and relatives causes a lot of worry for nurses because some hospitals and clinics do not have proper mechanisms in place to protect them (Ellis, 2003). Many nurses complain of back pains due to long hours of standing and bending without any breaks. Musculoskeletal and needlestick injuries are common with practicing nurses. Nurses are normally overworked and as a result, suffer from the acute chronic effects of stress that are not good for their health. Practicing nurses get exposed to blood-borne injuries in the process of handling patients (Stellman, 1998). The health and safety concerns of practicing nurses affect social and economic aspects of their lives. Occupational health and safety risks in the healthcare system are often ignored because there are no effective reporting systems where practicing nurses can raise their grievances (Stellman, 1998).
The entire healthcare system is normally affected in a great way by occupational health and safety risks that practicing nurses are exposed to (Ivanov, 2008). To begin with, the performance levels of nurses drop when they are stressed because of occupational health and safety risks. Practicing nurses can not work effectively in a hazardous environment that does not have any safety arrangements (Ivanov, 2008). The most affected stakeholders by this clinical problem are patients. Patients rely on the services of nurses to get well and this can not happen if nurses are not in a good physical and mental condition to serve them. The recent workforce shortages in healthcare organizations occur due to the increasing number of practicing nurses who are leaving the profession. An occupational health and safety risk is a clinical problem that has made the healthcare system lose qualified professionals (Ivanov, 2008). Patients can not be brought to a hospital where there are not enough practicing nurses or the ones present are completely disgruntled due to poor working conditions. The financial position of hospitals and clinics is also affected by occupational health and safety risks because they can not be in a good financial position if no patients are visiting the hospital (Ellis, 2003).
Quality healthcare is key to economic and social development and this can only be achieved by having nurses that are motivated and feel safe in their working environment (Ellis, 2003). The fact that quality healthcare is very essential for socio-economic development shows how a clinical problem can affect the wellbeing of an entire nation. The entire healthcare fraternity suffers badly when the operations in hospitals are affected by demoralized nurses (Ellis, 2003). Nurses working in high-risk working environments will always engage in regular industrial strikes that always send the entire healthcare sector into a crisis. Nurses play a very significant role in healthcare provision and that is why patients, governments, hospitals, management, and the patients’ relatives can be affected by a single clinical problem. The healthcare system depends on the services of clinical nurses (Funnell, 2008). The welfare of practicing nurses when it comes to occupational health and safety should be considered to maintain the smooth running of healthcare organizations. Many nurses fail to report on duty due to occupational illnesses and injuries. The situation becomes even worse for practicing nurses who are not paid well and are supposed to settle their medical bills on their own. This strains them financially and some nurses even find it difficult to provide for their families (Funnell, 2008). Some healthcare organizations do not even have healthcare insurance covers to cover their treatment.
The problem of occupational health and safety risk should be solved through the effort of all stakeholders in the healthcare sector (Funnell, 2008). The government and healthcare organizations have a great responsibility of ensuring that the problem of occupational health and safety risk is dealt with accordingly. The government deals with the legislation part while healthcare organizations have the responsibility of ensuring that all the legislation concerning occupational health and safety of practicing nurses are fully implemented (Ivanov, 2008). Injuries and illnesses related to work should be treated by the employer and not practicing nurses. The reporting systems in healthcare organizations should be improved to give practicing the liberty to reports work-related illnesses and injuries to management for help. Lack of clear reporting channels makes many practicing nurses suffer silently from occupational illnesses and injuries (Ivanov, 2008). The other reason why occupational health and safety is still a major problem is that many healthcare organizations do not educate their staff on the various hazards in their hospitals and clinics.
Nurses who are aware of the various hazards in their working environment can handle them more effectively than those who are not aware (Stellman, 1998). Healthcare organizations should provide practicing nurses with safety equipment and devices to minimize occupational health and safety risks. All healthcare organizations should have surveillance systems to capture the various health and safety risks that nurses and other healthcare providers get exposed in the course of their duties (Stellman, 1998). Training strategies on occupational health and safety should be implemented to educate nurses on how to handle occupational health and safety issues. Occupational health and safety policies should be fully implemented at the organizational and national levels to ensure that practicing nurses are well covered and protected from health and safety risks at their workplace (Stellman, 1998).
It is the responsibility of employers to inform their employees of the various hazards in their workplace (Ellis, 2003). Quality nursing care can only be delivered if the health and safety of practicing nurses are guaranteed. The legislation on occupational health and safety in a healthcare organization is meant to protect practicing nurses and all the people within healthcare organizations against health and safety risks. The legislation governs the activities of nurses in their workplace (Funnell, 2008). Clinical operations and processes are guided by standard rules and regulations that help a great deal in protecting nurses from occupational health and safety risks. Under the occupational health and safety legislation, healthcare organizations have no choice but to improve occupational health and safety. Exposing employees to health and safety risks is illegal according to the health and safety legislation (Funnell, 2003). All healthcare organizations should satisfy all the legislative requirements concerning occupational health and safety before being allowed to operate. Healthcare organizations should also implement consultative mechanisms with practicing nurses to streamline communication channels when it comes to occupational health and safety matters (Ivanov, 2008). Health and safety management systems should be implemented and funded by healthcare organizations. Occupational health and safety management systems ensure that occupational hazards and risks are assessed and analyzed before nurses begin their work. Practicing nurses also have a role to play in improving their occupational health and safety. It is a personal responsibility for practicing nurses to take care of their health and safety (Ivanov, 2008). They need to use and maintain all safety equipment according to instructions to avoid being involved in unnecessary accidents.
In conclusion, clinical problems affect the performance of practicing nurses and the entire healthcare system. An occupational health and safety risk is a major problem that practicing nurses encounter in the course of their work. Work-related injuries and illnesses are common with practicing nurses and many nurses suffer silently without notifying the hospital management (Funnell, 2008). Occupational health and safety risks can be minimized if the government and healthcare organizations ensure that the legal requirements related to occupational health and safety are fully implemented (Ivanov, 2008). It is also the responsibility of practicing nurses to follow all the safety requirements and procedures in order to solve the problem of occupational health and safety risks.
Ellis, J. (2003). Nursing in today’s world: Trends, issues, & management. London: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.
Funnel, R. (2008). Tabbner’s nursing care: Theory and practice. New York, NY: Elsevier Australia.
Ivanov, L. (2008). Public health nursing: Leadership, policy, & practice. New York, NY: Cengage Learning.
Stellman, J. (1998). Encyclopedia of occupational health and safety. New York, NY: International Labor Organization.