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6 Strategies for a Safer Hospital

Lena J. Weiner, for HealthLeaders Media, July 14, 2014

Hospitals are among the most dangerous places to work and there are high costs associated with injured workers, but hospitals and health systems can strategically reduce the risk of injury to staff.

Despite the public image of hospitals being places of healing and health, those who work in them know they can be very dangerous places. Spills, slips, falls, exposure to dangerous chemicals and infectious diseases, musculoskeletal injury and the never-distant threat of workplace violence hover over hospitals.

"Nurses [are] the number one victim of workplace violence," says Marilyn Hollier, president of the International Association of Hospital Safety and Security.

But there are everyday dangers related to nursing as well. One study found that 64% of nurses report having been stuck by a needle at some point in their career.

And back injuries are common among nurses. Many "don't have access to lifting equipment," says Dawson. "Frequently, they must transfer patients manually, which can lead to musculoskeletal injuries." A 2012 study of nurses leaving the profession found that 12% cite chronic back pain as the main reason for quitting.

"Hospital administrators tend to focus on the financial repercussions of workplace injuries and forget the human cost. These are highly skilled healthcare workers, and they're losing their [jobs]," says Jaime Dawson, senior policy analyst at the American Nurses Association.

What she doesn't mention is the cost to hospitals who must recruit, hire, and train, new nurses to replace those lost to injury.

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