When people think of dangerous careers likely to cause permanent injury, they may think of manufacturing, construction or even professional driving. Nursing and working at a hospital are rarely at the top of the list. However, when it comes to serious injuries while working, hospital staff face risk levels that are higher than even those experienced by construction workers.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more hospital workers get hurt each year than just about any other group of workers. For every 100,000 full-time workers, 157.5 will likely experience a serious injury or illness related to work. That number is 147.4 for construction workers and 111.8 for people who work in manufacturing. Clearly, hospital work is more dangerous than people think it is.
Patient focus and unique risks contribute to the danger
While only doctors take the Hippocratic oath to “first do no harm,” most people in medicine focus completely on the patients in their care. They will more readily endanger themselves than risk putting a patient in a dangerous situation. This can lead to an increased risk of injury or illness.
A hospital is also a source of many unique sources of risk. For example, administration of intravenous medication involves handling needs. Accidental pokes with “sharps,” as they are called, can result in catching a serious condition, from HIV to some forms of hepatitis. Patients suffering from dementia, under the influence of street drugs or having a reaction to a prescribed medication can also pose a risk of assault or injury for those who try to help them.
Lifting and moving patients is another source of injury
The single biggest risk to those working in a hospital setting is the potential for overexertion and bodily reaction. Nurses, physician’s assistants and similar professionals are often responsible for moving patients. This could mean rotating an immobile patient to avoid bed sores or lifting a patient onto a gurney for transportation.
It only takes a second for someone to move, lift or turn in the wrong way. That can cause serious injury and potentially permanent disability, depending on the location and severity of the injury. Damage to the back, for example, could require surgery, months of rest and physical therapy for recovery. A torn tendon in the shoulder or knee could permanently compromise a nurse’s ability to perform his or her job.
Hospital staff who sustain serious injuries or contract illnesses while performing their jobs may require workers’ compensation benefits while they recover. For those who find themselves permanently disabled, connecting with those benefits becomes that much more important. After risking so much to ensure a high standard of care for others, these devoted professionals deserve support as well.