Hospitals, clinics and other medical facilities are probably not the first places that come to mind when discussing the incidence of serious and debilitating work injuries. However, a recently released report by a renowned research institute suggests that these work environments can actually prove to be rather unsafe for medical professionals.
According to researchers at the National Patient Safety Foundation's Lucian Leape Institute, the injury rate among health care workers is currently 33 percent higher than the injury rate for the entire private industry, sitting at an unbelievable 5.6 per 100 full-time employees.
The report, entitled "Through the Eyes of the Workforce," indentified musculoskeletal injuries (i.e., those injuries concerning muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc.) as the most common injury to befall medical workers who are frequently required to lift and move patients. Exposure to bloodborne pathogens and contagious patients was also identified as another primary cause of work injuries.
Interestingly, the report theorizes that this surprisingly high rate of work injuries can more than likely be traced to the mounting pressure being put on medical professionals to provide as much care as possible in the shortest amount of time.
Specifically, the more pressure that is put on these medical professionals to move as quickly as possible, the less time they have to make sure that they are observing proper safety protocol, and the more tired or demoralized they become.
"One of the ways you show respect for people working health care is by paying attention to the basic safety of the workplace," said Dr. Lucian Leape, one of the primary authors of the study. "It's really horrendous that the delivery of health care, in hospitals specifically, is one of the most hazardous places to work in the country."
One of the more shocking suggestions of the study was that the this hectic environment was not only leading to more work injuries but also potentially compromising efforts to continually improve patient care.
In order to rectify the problem, the researchers advised healthcare facilities across the U.S. to implement programs that carefully track work injuries, such that the causes can be identified and the necessary solutions implemented.
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Source: American Medical News, "Warning sounded on demoralized health care work force," Kevin O'Reilly, March 18, 2013