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The nursing profession focuses on offering healthcare services to individuals, families and communities to ensure optimal recovery and to improve the quality of life. Nurses are crucial in the protection of public health. However, several issues in the nursing profession need to be addressed, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of nurses. The issues include the differences in compensation for nurses from different specialties, regions and genders. In a report by the World Health Organization, male nurses earn more than their female counterparts do. Another issue of concern is workplace violence either from patients or from coworkers. Lastly, the nurses are exposed to workplace hazards including injuries, exposure to blood-borne pathogens, infections from germs and bacteria, hand washing-related dermatitis, among other hazards (Walton et al., 544). The argumentative essay will discuss the workplace hazards in the nursing profession.
According to Walton et al., 18.6% of nurses in the US experience illnesses and injuries acquired during their course of duty. The rate is even higher than that of hazardous occupations including mining and heavy construction, which is 13.8%. The nurses are exposed to infectious illnesses, toxic elements, radiations, and back injuries. Moreover, are likely to experience burnouts, shift work, stress, and violence. The nurses are involved in the handling of patients with infectious illnesses in the health facilities and are at risk of contracting diseases like Ebola, influenza, among others, as they serve patients. Therefore, it is critical to protect the nurses and other health practitioners from exposure to hazardous chemical and biological substances. In addition, the health care sector should educate and train the nurses on correct use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
Mobilizing hospitals in the US to prepare for large scale exposure to hazards costs the industry a huge amount of time and money. The challenges must be addressed to reduce the number of fatalities and hazards for the nurses. The National Nurses United conducted a survey with a sample of 3000 nurses across the US (World Health Organization, 2001). About 85% of the nurses reported that they did not feel that they had sufficient training for personal protection from work-related hazards. 85% of the nurses said their institutions were underprepared to treat infectious diseases like Ebola, increasing the risk of nurses infection with the diseases as they are the people who provide primary care to the patients (World Health Organization, 2001). Goodwin et al. discovered a strong relationship between the rate of nurses’ hazard control training and the in-hospital risk of infections and exposure to life threatening hazards. The findings of the survey support the argument as nurses who perceived that they did not have adequate training and access to PPE were at higher risk of infections and other work-related hazards.
Hazard identification and assessment is critical for proper training and protection from the work-related hazards. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), hazards are elements or conditions that are likely to cause harm to human beings. It is the duty of employers to protect their employees from work-related hazards. The hospitals can protect the nurses from hazards through work practice control, engineering control or by the use of PPE. The first step to achieving that is by assessing the work environment to identify any potential hazards. The hazard assessment will help the organization to take the relevant measures to protect the nurses and to prescribe the appropriate PPE.
The nurses who work with the terminally ill patients are prone to mental disturbance and show early signs of stress including sleep disturbances, emotional instability, headaches, ulcers, loss of appetite, and irritability. The stress may be as a result of dealing with fatal illnesses and injuries, handling demanding clients, poor life-work balance due to understaffing, overworking and rotational shifts, patients death, among other reasons. The nurses build up fatigue and emotions of anger thus end up stresses. Stress is classified as a work-place hazard as the nurses’ lives may be adversely affected by the condition leading to increase in alcohol and substance abuse, deteriorating performance and increased absenteeism. If the condition is not dealt with as a hazard, the nurses may end up in depression which is life threatening. Nurses may experience violence from patients, especially in the psychiatric units. The patients may carry weapons or may become violent during treatment sessions. According to… student nurses and inexperienced nurses are at higher chances of experiencing assault in hospital settings. However, … confirmed that assault may happen to all nurses as it is more associated with the patient’s attitude and state rather than the nurses qualification.
In conclusion, OSHA has set out guidelines on protecting the nurses from work-place hazards. The hospitals should train and educate the nurses on potential hazards in the work place and protect them by work place control, engineering control, or by providing the proper PPE. For exposure to violence, hospitals should have measure of controlling violent patients and should take legal action on the perpetrator of violence. The stress hazard can be addressed by having frequent staff meetings and having a stress management program to equip the nurses with adequate coping skills. The nurses should be allowed a flexible work schedule and hospitals should have enough staff to avoid overworking the nurses.
Goodwin Veenema, Tener, and Andrew Corley. "Nurse Safety from Exposure to Chemicals and Biologics: Hazard Assessment, Decontamination and the Use of Personal Protective Equipment." Health Science Journal 9.6 (2015).
Walton, AnnMarie Lee, and Bonnie Rogers. "Workplace hazards faced by nursing assistants in the United States: a focused literature review." International journal of environmental research and public health 14.5 (2017): 544.
World Health Organization. The role of the occupational health nurse in workplace health management. No. EUR/01/5025463. Copenhagen: WHO Regional Office for Europe, 2001.
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