It’s no secret that the United States has a nursing crisis. The healthcare sector has always been a stressful environment, but staffing shortages exacerbate the challenges faced by caregivers.
Unfortunately, these shortages in healthcare facilities can lead to overwork and fatigue among staff, increasing their risk of injury.
The impact of inadequate staffing levels
You only need to stop by the hospital or one of the local nursing homes to see that they’re short-staffed. And all of them are competing for the same nurses and nurse aides in this limited workforce pool. Furthermore, the local community college and BOCES are trying to fulfill this need, but it takes time to train new healthcare workers.
In the meantime, current employees try to pick up the workload by working extra hours. However, these long hours lead to exhaustion, burnout and placing resident care over personal safety. Some common injuries include:
- Sprains and strains from overexertion due to lifting and moving patients
- Herniated discs from incorrect body mechanics during patient handling
- Puncture wounds and cuts from handling sharp objects such as needles or razors
- Fractures and head injuries from slips and falls due to wet floors and cluttered work areas
- Increased risk of bloodborne pathogens and airborne infections
Knowing these risks is the first step in preventing them. Healthcare facilities can protect healthcare workers from injuries through several strategies:
- Providing mechanical lift equipment and training staff on its use to reduce manual patient lifting
- Safety programs that teach proper body mechanics
- Providing staff with radios so they can request help during patient transfers
- Training staff on proper sharps handling and using needles with safety features
- Requiring staff to take breaks
- Providing mental health services to staff to prevent burnout
By implementing a combination of these strategies, healthcare facilities can create a safer working environment, reducing the risk of injuries among healthcare workers. However, if an injury does occur, staff must report it. Workers’ compensation will pay any medical expenses associated with a workplace injury and cover lost wages while the employee fully recovers.