Job Hazards as the Most Problematic Controversy Nurses Face

Nursing is a very demanding profession that requires commitment and dedication in order to overcome potential challenges. Nursing personnel are employed in various care settings including nursing homes, physicians’ offices, community health agencies, schools, corporations, and health maintenance organizations.  This career has a higher occupational illness and injuries of 18% for fulltime employees in comparison to construction, which has 13% for every 100 permanent workers and wining that has 7% hazards. Nurses experience psychological, physical, chemical, and biological hazards at workplace in form of violence, shifts, stress, radiation, toxic substances, and infectious diseases.

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Nurses play a very important role in the health care system of any nation. They care for the patients, fill leadership roles at their facilities, health systems, and other organizations. However, this cohort is exposed to various problems, which arise from their interaction with patients and others or due to lack of a universal mechanism of legislation. Being a nurse in the current society is very challenging because one has to deal with staffing shortage, long shifts, unstandardized salary, a lot of work hazards, and discrimination. This paper seeks to argue that job hazards are the most problematic controversy that nurses have to deal with in their career.

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Job Hazards in Nursing

The working environment of a nurse puts them to various threats such as being contaminated with infected fluids, blood borne pathogens, cold and flu germs, hand-washing related dermatitis, and injuries (Gamage 115). They also lift patients of various body weight and size, work on slippery floors especially during emergency, and are exposed to sharp objects and needles. Additionally, nurses face physical and verbal threat from their clients when they get angry and frustrated particularly when the seek person has to wait for a doctor.  

            Workplace injury is higher in healthcare when compared to other industries. Actually, about 5 million out of about 12 million employees in the medical sector and related occupations are at greater exposure of blood borne pathogens. Every year, the nurses experience about 35,000 injuries involving hands, shoulders, back, and feet. Equally important, the likelihood of perils is influenced by the environment and the age of the health care provider. The nurse can suffer severe or moderate skin damage and irritation contact dermatitis despite the fact that they follow hand hygiene protocols. Clearly, protection of nursing workforce is a critical aspect of any health system, which should put into consideration individuals who are opposed to vaccination because of religious or personal reasons.

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            First, infectious diseases are a hazard that occurs not only in hospitals but also in other sectors where nurses are employed. Higher risks occur in contagious illness wards, pediatric areas, ambulatory care facilities, and emergency rooms where Hepatitis B is the most prevalent case (Mattila 660). Actually, this disease can be transferred through saliva, blood, feces, and semen. Nurse who work in prisons, outpatient clinics, and long-term care facilities are also at a risk of being infected with tuberculosis. Other transferable illnesses that are a threat to care givers include rubella, influenza, mumps, HIV, and measles.  

            Second, toxic exposure is a chemical hazard that nurses encounter in their workplace. Teratogenicity, mutagenic, and carcinogenic effects are potential threats that can be caused by antineoplastic agents. Actually, this hazard results in skin, mucus membranes, or eyes irritation, and acute allergic reactions (Mattila 662). Hospitals usually use ethylene oxide to sterilize heat sensitive objects and medical instruments despite the fact that it possesses harmful properties including causing respiratory tract irritation, chemical burns, and affects the central nervous system. Mercury is used in different instruments in a healthcare setting. Spills occur when the glass part of a thermometer breaks. High exposure levels cause death and acute poisoning. This hazard can extend to family members if mercury is carried home on the clothing or shoes of a nurse. Moreover, waste anesthetic gas exposure is another hazard that can occur in labor and delivery, recovery, and operating rooms. This experience may cause hepatic and renal disorders, congenital abnormalities, and increased threat of spontaneous abortions.

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Third, back injuries are a major workplace hazard for nurses. Health care provision involves lifting patients when they are on bed, transferring them across wards, helping the sick old, weak and debilitated people walk, and carrying equipment that are heavy. These tasks place nurses at a greater risk of back injuries. This threat is also related to professional experience, gender, shift, and weight. Additionally, nurses are compelled to work for long hours and engage in repetitive movements. According to current research, healthcare personnel have the third highest rate of injury in any industry, with the exception of professional movers and truck drivers. They are also more likely to suffer chronic pain and discomfort than workers in other professions, especially in the lower back pain and the feet. The leading cause of these musculoskeletal problems is patient handling, which comprises tasks like repositioning, lifting, and transferring patients (Edlich). What is more, the limited space in many healthcare settings increases the risk of injury during patient handling related tasks. Though theories of utilizing proper “body mechanics” have been cited as an effective remedy for back pain and discomfort, research shows there is no harmless way of lifting patients due to the significant pressure applied on the spine (Edlich). Other sources of injury include repetitive bending, long periods of standing, and pushing gurneys and wheelchairs.

Nevertheless, the healthcare sector has put in place certain standards and operating procedures that are aimed at reducing the incidence of job hazards. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stipulates recommendations for safety and health programs to protect all workers from workstation hazards; to assist employers to provide safe working environments and conditions; to help workers avoid incidents, illnesses, and injuries; and to minimize health and safety risks.  Healthcare employers are advised to involve skilled workers who have understanding on the conditions which create hazards, to assess and pinpoint options for regulating hazards using a set of steps, to use hazard control plans for guidance on the implementation of controls, to develop plans to protect workers during non-routine activities, and to evaluate the success of the current controls as far as safety is concerned.

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Typically, safety professionals in health settings act in response to job hazards in the health setting by using a combination of administrative, engineering, and personal protective equipment (PPE) controls (Akduman 112). Examples of common engineering and PPE controls include safer needles, googles, needless IVs, a range of gloves, lift assists, and other PPE (Akduman 112). Universal administrative controls are job enlargement and job rotation. In the case of administrative issues, the healthcare provider conducts reviews for evaluating whether the equipment is appropriate for specific activities. The reviews normally involve on-site testing of a range of equipment by the end users. Healthcare providers are also compelled by healthcare standards to provide convenient storage where equipment is easy to store and retrieve.

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Nursing professionals are provided with preventive measures such as vaccination, educative sessions, sterilization and disinfection procedures, and availability of personal protective clothing (Akduman 113). Additionally, there are work practices that have been recommended by CDC during invasive procedures.  All body and blood fluids ought to be considered potentially infectious and universal precautions should be exercised when handling every patient. Blood borne pathogens require workers to take precautions when dealing with blood and OPIMS and implement work practice controls to eradicate or reduce exposure to blood borne pathogens (Gamage 115). The implementation of engineering controls is also helpful exposure either through the removal, elimination, or isolation of a hazard. In addition, healthcare centers have put appropriate measures to ensure that needles and sharp objects are properly discarded as soon as feasible or immediately after use.

Finally, health safety authorities provide guidelines on the use and management of chemical agents such as laboratory chemicals, anesthetic agents, medical gases, cleaning agents, cytotoxic drugs, and pharmaceutical substances. These guidelines coerce employers to access any work activity that is likely to involve the risk of exposure. Additionally, there are guidelines for handling antineoplastic agents safely.

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To sum it all, nurses are exposed to various environmental hazards, which arise from their contact with patients, the drugs they use, psychological and physical job demands, and technological application. The major threats they have to deal with include stress, violence, radiation, toxic exposures, back injury, and infectious diseases. However, an enhanced understanding of potential perils related to this career can be useful in assessing and combating threats.

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