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Keep Yourself Safe at Work

Nursing is filled with occupational hazards. From lifting injuries to accidental sharps exposures, the day-to-day risks are everywhere. While ADN-prepared RNs are already aware of many of these dangers, those who pursue an RN to BSN program will find it easier to stay mindful of health and safety regulations when providing clinical care.

What Occupational Hazards Do Nurses Face?

Nurses face physical, emotional and psychological challenges in the workplace, which can negatively affect their health and wellness. Here are some of the top occupational hazards that nurses experience:

Patient-Handling Injuries

When working under time constraints, nurses may be prone to forgo proper lifting techniques to get the job done quickly. Staff shortages may result in nurses underutilizing team lift techniques as well. Unfortunately, this can lead to injuries.

Based on 2014 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare has one of the highest rates of musculoskeletal injuries due to overexertion. When compared to all other industries, hospital employees have more than twice the overexertion injuries, and nursing home employees have more than three times the average injury rate. Therefore, it is important to periodically review your employer’s patient-handling policies to avoid unnecessary injuries.


Nursing is a rewarding but highly stressful career. When your day is filled with patients in pain who may be dealing with terminal illness, it can become a heavy burden to bear. While many nurses may feel like they are able to compartmentalize these emotions, they often have a way of resurfacing when least expected. A 2012 study published in the Clinical Nurse Specialist found that depression occurs in nurses at twice the rate of the general public.

It’s important to remember that there is no shame in asking for some emotional support. Take advantage of employer programs such as counseling and wellness initiatives. Meditation, physical exercise, and talking through your emotions can be helpful in keeping depression at bay.

Sharps-Related Injuries

Between drawing blood, starting an IV, and dispensing medications, nurses handle needles quite frequently. Approximately 385,000 sharps-related injuries occur annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All nurses are susceptible to sharps injuries, even the most experienced. One unexpected move from a patient or coworker could result in an injury and exposure to blood-borne pathogens. Constant vigilance is difficult, but being mindful of situations where accidental sharps injuries could occur is critical. Reviewing the proper protocols, like containerization for disposing of used needles and sharps may serve as a useful reminder as well.

Making Assumptions

Nurses must regularly evaluate clinical situations to provide the most appropriate care. However, when you are working in a fast-paced environment, it can be tempting to make assumptions and move ahead without taking the time to think things through. In healthcare though, one erroneous assumption can be deadly or result in the loss of your nursing license.

After years of working in healthcare, the seriousness of these occurrences may be dulled. While it can be challenging to remain vigilant day after day, aim to never make assumptions while on the clock. Never assume that the discrepancy in the medical record is a harmless typo or that the nurse on the prior shift administered the medication but simply forgot to document it. These errors can have devastating consequences, so it is imperative to question every inconsistency.

Staying Safe

Due to the nature of the profession, nurses are susceptible to a number of occupational hazards. Staying safe in the workplace, in terms of both physical and mental health, is imperative not only for yourself, but also for the patients in your care.

Learn more about the University of Texas at Arlington online RN to BSN program.


Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Nurses Experience Depression at Twice the Rate of General Public

CDC: Stop Sticks Campaign

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses

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