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Unsafe Working Conditions and How to Resolve Them
Unsafe Working Conditions and How to Resolve Them
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Written by Andrea Pink
Updated this week

As a medical professional, minimizing and eliminating risks for your patients, co-workers, and yourself is your job. There are many factors to consider when attempting to eliminate these safety risks and how to report them. The following are just a few to consider in your daily practice.

Inadequate nurse-patient ratios

Inadequate nurse-to-patient ratios lead to slower response times, increased risk of errors in medication administration, patient treatment mistakes, and neglected patient care. Important signs and symptoms can be missed, leading to negative patient outcomes.

Being understaffed can’t be avoided at times, but when it becomes the norm, it needs to be addressed. If you work at a facility where short-staffing is a common occurrence, the first step is bringing it to the attention of the charge nurse, nurse manager, or nursing supervisor. Many times, you can find relief from short-staffing by floating nurses from units with lower censuses to the short-staffed unit. If that isn’t an option, most facilities have a list of on-call or PRN nurses that can fill the gaps. The easiest way to ensure proper staffing is to review unit schedules daily and call staffing in as needed to cover days that the unit may be short.

Lack of PPE

You can’t take care of others if you don’t take care of yourself! Not having the correct PPE puts yourself at risk for exposure to pathogens and our patients at risk for exposure.

At the beginning of your shift, ensure you have all the PPE you require. If stock is not readily available, contact your central supply department to handle re-stocking.

Violence in the workplace

Unfortunately, violent outbursts by patients in nursing homes are fairly common. More stringent laws regarding narcotic pain medications, short staffing issues, and difficulty obtaining proper mental healthcare all contribute to these violent episodes.

Your company’s protocol for handling violence in the workplace is one of the best resources you have in handling these episodes. If you ever feel that there is concern for violence in a situation you are in or are observing, go to your supervisor immediately.

Witnessing unsafe practices by team members

Unfortunately, we have all witnessed a colleague who has been careless—not washing hands, drawing blood without gloves, not doing double patient identifiers before medication administration, lifting patients, or moving heavy objects improperly. Taking dangerous shortcuts poses a risk to both you and your patients.

It is our responsibility to uphold safe nursing practices. You may gently remind your co-worker, or take your concerns directly to your supervisor.

Environmental and maintenance factors that impact the workplace

It’s the spilled coffee that one of the doctors didn’t report as they were rushing off for rounds, or the frayed electrical cord that you notice on your computer on wheels, or even the patient refrigerator that is not at the right temperature.

Notify maintenance or janitorial staff as soon as possible to reduce any risk the issue poses. If you can’t find that information, ask a co-worker or charge nurse.

Remember that it is your job to minimize risk for your patients, coworkers, and yourself. In doing so, you are advocating for the entire nursing community. That is a huge responsibility, so be proud of the work you do!

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