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Do Hospitals Really Care About Nurse Safety?

December 17, 2015

nurse-patientNursing is the core of the hospital workforce. They have the greatest impact on patient safety and the patient experience. Many regions and hospitals are facing staffing shortages, making it hard to find nurses. Every hospital states that its workforce, particularly nursing, is its most important asset. If that’s the case, they have a strange way of showing it. At a time when attracting, selecting and retaining top nurses is critical, you'd think that hospital administrators would care more about nurse safety. Most people realize that nursing can be hard work – long hours, intellectually taxing, stressful situations, and newer expectations mean they need to meet patient expectations with fewer resources.

What most people don’t realize is how dangerous nursing is. Our consultants that work in other industries are shocked at how little attention healthcare pays to employee safety. A recent Becker’s Hospital Review article highlights two problems, in particular:

Injuries: Workplace injuries are higher for healthcare workers than any other industry, and nurses suffer more than 35,000 injuries a year to their feet, hands, shoulders and back. Several factors determine the likelihood of injury.

Bloodborne pathogens: Although glove and hand-hygiene guidelines have reduced the risk of exposure to pathogens, the threat of needle sticks and splashes remains.

Both hospitals and government agencies have historically failed to take proper precautions against nurse injuries, due in part to a series of court rulings that defanged OSHA's regulatory powers. These two issues can be resolved with a combination of proper training and process changes, and efforts to ensure 100% compliance with the training and changes.

What can we learn from other industries?

  1. A thorough program of training and process changes is critical. Understand the cause of the risks, address root causes and train every staff member. In these cases, the risks are understood and there have been proven remedies.
  2. A pervasive culture of safety. It’s one thing to do the training and have the processes in place. It’s another to demand compliance, 100% of the time. This expectation comes from senior leadership.

We’ve also seen that behavioral evaluation and training plays a role. Individual behavioral tendencies impact safety. We need to augment traditional training with an understanding of these behavioral tendencies and training on how to change behaviors to create a safer workplace. To learn more, read about our new C.A.R.E.S. Assessment:

Bryan Warren Bryan Warren is the President of J3 Personica, a consulting, assessment, training, and coaching firm, and a guest blogger for PSI. Bryan is an expert in progressive talent strategies, with a particular focus on leader and physician selection and development.