Nurses play a vital role in the healthcare industry, but they face a variety of hazards. These hazards often result in injuries or illnesses that require missed work days and medical treatment.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the majority of injuries and illnesses occur in hospital settings and to nurses who have worked for five or more years.
Physical hazards are the cause of the majority of injuries. Hazards include bending and twisting while lifting patients, standing on their feet all day, repetitive motions and slips and falls. Back injuries are the most common, and they occur at a higher rate than in any other occupation.
Exposure to chemicals and infectious diseases
Many nurses work with sick patients, which exposes them to bacteria and viruses. Common infectious diseases they come into contact with include the flu, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and tuberculosis.
According to the National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, nurses also face exposure to cytotoxic drugs, sterilization chemicals, elemental mercury, formaldehyde, radiation and waste anesthetic gases.
Nurses who work in mental health facilities, emergency departments, medical-surgical units, pediatric units and long-term care facilities face the risk of violence by patients and family members. Risk factors include time of day, inexperience or lack of training, containment practices and staffing patterns.
Stress and long hours
Most nurses work in stressful environments where they are dealing with ill or terminal patients, fast-paced situations and multiple patients to care for. Many also work long shifts. These factors often lead to mental and physical exhaustion, which affects their overall well-being.