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Clinical Corner: Safety First!

By Phil Niles, Medical Solutions Clinical Manager

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Transportation safety is key while traveling to and from your assignment!

Healthcare professionals are not just patient safety advocates — they’re also public health and safety resources for the people in their communities. Injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 44, according to the CDC. The good news is everyone can help prevent injuries and maintain a culture of safety. This month in Clinical Corner, we encourage you to learn more about important safety issues like preventing poisonings, transportation safety, and slips, trips, and falls.

Poisonings: Did you know that nine out of 10 poisonings happen right at home? You can be poisoned by many things, like cleaning products or another person’s medicine. Every year, poison control centers receive more than 2 million calls from people seeking medical help for poisoning. It is the leading cause of unintentional death, surpassing even motor vehicle crashes, and includes drug overdoses, inadvertent ingestion of drugs or chemicals, and exposure to environmental substances.

Meanwhile, drugs in the workplace have become a hot button issue in the healthcare industry. More than 100 people die every day from opioid overdoses, and 75% of employers say their workplaces have been impacted by opioid use, according to a recent National Safety Council poll. Only 17% of employers feel well-prepared to deal with the issue.

For the first time in U.S. history, the National Safety Council estimates that a person is more likely to die from an accidental opioid overdose than from a motor vehicle crash. In fact, workplace overdose deaths involving drugs or alcohol have increased by at least 25% for five consecutive years.

What you can do: Laws to fight opioid abuse are rapidly changing on the state level and may affect you as you accept traveling assignments in different states. Before your next assignment, make sure you have a full understanding of your soon-to-be state’s laws. You can regularly review the State Nurse Practice.

Risks of the Road: Summer brings out the orange. Orange cones, barrels, and signs reminding us all that road construction season has arrived. While almost everyone adjusts accordingly and knows that better roads are coming, there’s always someone who doesn’t plan ahead, slow down, or pay attention. In fact, distracted driving caused 3,166 deaths in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  

What you can do: Navigating unfamiliar roads and new cities is an occupational hazard for many traveling healthcare professionals. To help address this, you can always plan out your travel route beforehand, drive slow through work zones, and limit possible distractions while driving. After all, you won’t be able to care for others if you have a major accident.

Falls: According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), most safety incidents involve slips, trips, and falls. They cause 15% of all accidental deaths and are second only to motor vehicles as a cause of fatalities. Additionally, more than one in four seniors fall each year. Many falls lead to broken bones or head injuries. Slips, trips, and falls extend to the patient in the hospital, and nurses must be vigilant in assisting all staff and patients with fall prevention. Risk factors for anticipated falls include an unstable or abnormal gait, a history of falling, frequent toileting needs, altered mental status, and certain medications. Among hospitalized older adults, about 38% to 78% of falls can be anticipated. Evidence shows that one-third of reportable falls with injuries in hospitalized older adults are linked to bathroom use. More than half are associated with medications known to contribute to falls, such as anti-anxiety and anti-psychotic drugs. Also, about 40% of falls occur within 30 minutes of an hourly rounding visit by healthcare providers.

What you can do: Nurses hold the key in a critical step in the fall prevention process by communicating the patient’s fall risk and required interventions to colleagues, the patient and family, and significant others who need to support the interventions. Using a systematic process to identify and address the fall risk can nearly eliminate anticipated falls, prevent unanticipated falls from recurring, and significantly decrease accidental falls.

Safety is everyone’s responsibility! A “culture of safety” describes the core values and behaviors that come about when there is a collective commitment by leadership, managers and health care workers to emphasize safety. All nurses, whether permanent or temporary, should be concerned with safety and should work as safely as possible. You should keep safety at the top of your mental checklist, no matter what task you are performing for yourself, your patients and your community. When safety is given top priority, everything else begins to “fall” into place.

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