Health care is seen as a profession that is all about safety and protection, simply because of the nature of the industry. However, it is a much more dangerous profession than people make it out to be. This is especially true for those engage in direct patient care.
Back in 2011, the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OHSA) recorded a total of 253,700 work-related injuries. Based on the number of full-time employees, this meant that 7% of the workforce suffered injuries.
Healthcare workers are at great risk for injury, even more so than construction workers. Therefore, it is important to establish hospital safety standards for employees. These standards must be established to directly counter the ways in which hospital staff members get injured. According to OHSA, these are:
Together, these account for 99% of hospital staff injuries. There are several ways to improve safety, which are all outlined below.
The first thing to do is to establish a viable corporate safety culture, if one does not already exist. If there is already such a culture, then the occurrence of injuries as normal means that it either needs to be reviewed, or alternative methods need to be used to get the staff members interested enough to want to learn, and to practice safety measures. One method that has worked to great effect for some companies is to offer rewards for a decline in OHSA listed injuries. Speaking of OHSA, you can get a list of various injury types and sub-types from the organization to put this all into play.
The programs and protocols you implement must be wide reaching, and they must contribute to the protection of your staff members from violence, illnesses, infections, injuries, natural disasters, and dangerous patients.
It is important that you facilitate the adequate training necessary to get your entire staff complement to understand all the injury data in detail, as well as the protective measures that can be used to circumvent them.
There must be constant reinforcement of safety measures, so it becomes a part of natural operational procedures. You may also want to consider taking input from employees to increase engagement.
Improper patient handling (moving patients) is one of the most consistent sources of serious injuries to staff. Therefore, many hospitals have made heavy investments into safer patient handling. This investment comes in the forms of training, as well as ensuring that all necessary equipment is present.
Special care must be paid to this area as there are several contributing factors. Two of the biggest are:
This is the reason that 48% of all injuries are related to patient handling activities such as bending, reaching, and lifting, which can all lead to over-exertion.
Investments must be made into training lifting teams, patient lifting equipment, and the enforcement of sound ergonomic patient lifting procedures.
Not only does this create a less injury prone workforce and reduce staff compensation claims, but it also results in less injuries for patients.
A proper healthcare facility should employ proper recording methods for violent incidents, illnesses, and injures where employees are concerned. Depending on the injury or illness type, there may be requirements for them to be reported to state agencies or to OHSA. There is also a legal requirement to keep adequate records, which has bearing on compliance with worker safety laws.
Employees must be encouraged to report injuries regardless of what the circumstances surrounding them may be. This is the only way administrators and executives can be fully aware of safety gaps in the system, so adequate measures can be put in place.
For example, when healthcare systems have a zero-tolerance policy for violence, and when reporting is mandatory, the result is usually that the odds of staff members becoming victims of physical violence are much lower.
It isn’t uncommon for long working hours to be synonymous with jobs in the healthcare industry. Staff scheduling is a serious concern, as it can have serious implications on the safety of both patients and staff members.
A study carried out by the American Nurses Association (ANA) showed that when scheduling is done properly, patient complications, medication errors, medical errors, mortality, nurse fatigue, and nurse burnout are al reduced. At the same time, patient satisfaction increases.
Nurses sometimes work 10 or more hours at a time on consecutive days, and this causes many of them to be fatigued even before their shifts are slated to begin. Well-rested nurses are much less likely to make medical errors or have close calls than fatigued ones.
Special care must be given to how day and night shifts are scheduled. Some hospitals rotate nurses between day and night shifts to create a balance. However, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed that nurses who rotated had more sleep/wake cycle issues, nodded off at work, and were more likely to doze off while driving, than those who consistently worked either day or night shifts.
Safety-Oriented Information Systems
It is crucial that your IT systems are being utilized to ensure the wellbeing of patients and staff. Having critical information easily accessible ensure that proper health care is always provided, and it also contributes to staff safety.
Real-time location tracking systems (RTLS) are great for improving staff safety. These systems track the location of assets, staff, and patients, which enables precise location at any moment. This can make a huge difference in addressing issues and preventing serious situations from emerging.
Silent alarms for staff duress are also recommended. Health care employees must enter patient rooms and storage areas frequently. As there is low-traffic and visibility is limited, these areas are more violence prone as incidents are less likely to be seen.
Silent button alarms can be carried around by nurses and other employees, so they can call for help in critical times. These systems can be linked to an RTLS so locating the affected employee can be easily and quickly located.