Safety is in the details
Safety in the ICU

5 Ways to Improve Staff Safety in Healthcare

October 2, 2016

 

Working in the healthcare profession is one of the most rewarding careers you can choose, but working in healthcare also puts your own health at risk. Aside from the physical demands of crowded hospitals and the stress that comes with long shifts and treating serious ailments – working with sick patients puts you at risk for the same illnesses that brought them to the hospital. Additionally, certain treatments may sometimes pose a risk to the medical staff.


In fact, healthcare employees face more work-related injuries and illnesses than in construction and manufacturing. In 2011, U.S. hospitals recorded 6.8 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees – almost twice the rate for the private sector as a whole [1].


Hospitals are making strides to prevent injury and illnesses, but there is still more work to be done. The following are five ways to improve staff safety in healthcare.


1. Promote a culture of safety

Company culture heavily influences the general attitude of a working environment. Hospitals that place a big emphasis on staff safety are more likely to prevent incidents because safety is aligned with professionalism in the workplace.


Once safety is considered a crucial part of the job, each member of the team feels compelled to hold each other accountable.


2. Measure the performance of safety protocols

One of the fundamental practices that makes hospitals as effective as they are is the use of record keeping. Nurses and doctors are bombarded with information and urgent tasks throughout the day – without checklists, schedules, and other methods of monitoring tasks, it would be nearly impossible to keep track of everything.


Reporting incidents and learning from them is critical to implementing staff safety. Many safety related events may be under-reported for fear of legal actions. Also some injuries and dangers to medical staff are not taken as seriously as others, regardless of the true level of danger they pose to staff (For example unintentional exposure to aggressive substances is taken less seriously than needle stick injuries (link to previous blog: http://www.infusesafety.com/preventing-needlestick-injuries-in-the-icu ), it gets less press and lower awareness among staff and management.


Creating safety protocols isn't a one-time event. It's an ongoing process of developing processes for best practices on the one side, and a reporting culture on the other. The safety policies need to be reviewed and refined regularly.


3. Optimize staff scheduling

Hospital management faces many challenges – two of the most pressing issues right now are keeping labor costs low, and in some areas, finding enough qualified people to fill their teams.


When hospital teams are understaffed, employees are overworked, and the risk of safety incidents increases. While management needs to control labor costs for hospitals to remain profitable, there needs to be a balance between minimizing costs and maximizing staff safety.


4. Improve patient handling

Moving and handling patients can be one of the most physically demanding aspects of healthcare professions. As the dependency of patients on nursing staff [2] increases and equipment gets more complex, patient-handling methods from the past might not be as effective today.


Nurses should be encouraged to always ask for help when they need it – not just for the sake of reducing injury to themselves, but also to ensure the safety and comfort of patients.


5. Use safer medical equipment

Medical devices are quickly improving, and recent innovations eliminate health risks that plagued staff and patients in the past. However, hospitals often don't think to upgrade equipment because they either aren't aware of better solutions, or they are so used to their current devices that they haven't stopped to think about switching.


Among the many new innovations in the field of stopcocks and connectors, there are two new medical devices for Elcam that all hospitals should be aware of – the Marvelous Stopcock  and the Safe2 Rotator (S2R) connector. Both of these devices can dramatically improve staff and patient safety in the ICU and other medical settings by:

  • Improving infection control
  • Helping prevent needlestick injuries
  • Reducing medication errors (by reducing stopcock manipulations)
  • Increasing protection against exposure to blood and drugs
  • Minimizing  disconnections, air embolism and misconnections

Ultimately, these devices make hospitals safer for everyone and make it easier for nurses and doctors to do their jobs effectively.

 

Resources:

1. OSHA : https://www.osha.gov/dsg/hospitals/documents/1.1_Data_highlights_508.pdf
2. http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1414-81452016000300205&script=sci_arttext&tlng=en


Further reading recommendations:

Learn how hospitals are working to minimize risk of exposure to drugs and other aggressive substances:
http://www.infusesafety.com/the-risks-of-treatment-with-lipids-and-other-aggressive-substances-for-patients-and-medical-staff


Read more about needle stick injuries and how to prevent them:
http://www.infusesafety.com/needle-stick-injuries--management-and-prevention


Read about the important of nurse certification to hospitals:
http://www.infusesafety.com/why-certified-nurses-day-is-important-for-hospitals

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