Nursing: America's most dangerous job?

Compared to the sheen of neighboring communities in the tech industry boom, Stockton is a blue collar town. As such, local employees are aware of the dangers that come with thankless jobs like industrial labor, factory work and construction. These jobs shape the culture of our community in obvious ways. But, is there something or someone unseen among this work?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are more than four million professional nurses currently working in the United States. We count on nurses to be the daily caregivers for people most in need of medical help. While nurses are tasked with this essential job in the health care industry, are they in danger on the job too?

Who takes care of the caregivers?

Recent stories, including one of a nurse in Utah who was arrested for refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient, have raised awareness of the regular hazards nurses face on the job. According to the Washington Post, nursing is now considered more dangerous than a career in law enforcement.

Dangers nurses face include:

  • Physical abuse from patients including pushing, hitting and biting.
  • Biohazards such as exposure to blood-borne diseases.
  • Wear and tear injuries to the back and joints from lifting patients.

Historically, many of these injuries are underreported, according to OSHA. This may seem like part of the job. However, nurses are entitled to a safe workplace just like any other industry. Additionally, nurses have the right to seek compensation for injuries or illnesses sustained on the job.

Health care workers are in the unique position to quickly recognize and treat injuries to themselves and their fellow employees. However, the potential for hospitals to be short-staffed creates an incentive for nurses to take overtime shifts that may include odd hours and a subsequent lack of sleep. This overexertion on the job can lead to increased chances of injuries to staff and mistakes that could harm patients.

Programs in place to help nurses

According to the Washington Post, some states are making it a felony to attack a nurse doing their job. Additionally, more than half of all states have OSHA-approved workplace protections in place for nurses. However, there are no uniform standards in place at a federal level.

The lack of explicit protection puts the responsibility on nurses themselves to seek care and compensation for injuries and illnesses sustained on the job. When an unseen industry-wide problem like workplace hazards for nurses are addressed publicly, we can all be in a better position to have access to the care we need when injured on the job.

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