The coronavirus pandemic has made the risks healthcare workers face on a daily basis abundantly clear. The rapid spread of Covid-19 forced healthcare workers to simultaneously contend with several stressors, including shortages of PPE (personal protective equipment) and hospital rooms, as well as fears of transmitting the virus to family members and the harsh reality of losing co-workers to the disease.
All of that was piled on top of the risk of injury to healthcare workers by pre-pandemic hazards such as:
- Back injuries
- Sharps injuries (penetrating wounds from needles, scalpels and other sharp objects)
- Exposure to harmful chemicals
- Exposure to hazardous drugs
- Latex allergies
Injury and illness rates
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the rates of healthcare workers’ occupational injuries and illnesses are among the highest in any sector in the nation.
Because doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers must routinely move patients around hospitals and offices, there is a constant risk of musculoskeletal injuries. The frequency of these injuries is on the rise due to two factors: the U.S. obesity epidemic and the growing number of patients who require assistance due to disability or age.
According to EHS Today (a publication for safety professionals), “nurses, nursing aides, orderlies and attendants suffer more musculoskeletal injuries than workers in any other field.”
Those who are used to being greeted with smiles from doctors and nurses might be surprised to learn that many of those same medical professionals routinely contend with job-related violence. Approximately three-quarters of the nearly 25,000 workplace assaults that occur every year are in healthcare settings such as hospitals and offices.
According to a survey by the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), nearly 70 percent of ER doctors believe workplace violence is on the rise – nearly half of them said they had been physically assaulted at work.
Let’s hope that in the very near future, lawmakers and other stakeholders can find ways to make work safer for the medical professionals who risk everything to take care of us when we’re sick or injured.