How to Protect Yourself at Work

Article Categories: Tips and Tricks & Basic Skills

As a nursing assistant, you will encounter many challenges at work. The work as a CNA is not risk-free, so it is vital to know how to protect yourself as a healthcare worker. The dangers lurking at work come in many forms. Read on and see if you encounter any of these.

1. You are constantly exposed to micro-organisms that cause disease. Whether you are working in a home, a facility, or a hospital, the danger of catching a communicable disease is always present. Because of the nature of the work, nurse aides may find themselves caring for people who have infections. Viruses and bacteria are transmitted in various ways. Some of the most common ways these micro-organisms are transmitted are through the air (airborne or droplet), blood, or through food and water intake.

WHAT TO DO: Always practice handwashing and universal precautions. This habit was emphasized in your training as a CNA, and the importance of not acquiring a disease at work and consequently spreading viruses around is a primary responsibility of the nursing assistant. Perform handwashing between patient contacts, when transitioning from dirty to clean areas, and before and after performing care procedures. Use of personal protective equipment when expecting contact with the patient’s body fluid is a must.

2. As a CNA, protect yourself from injury caused by prolonged standing and heavy lifting. Use compression stockings and a comfortable pair of shoes. Lifting, turning, and transferring patients are physically demanding tasks, especially if the patient is large. Any of these motions can cause back and neck strains, or worse, slipped spinal discs. Remember that repeated traumas can take their toll on your body in the long run.

WHAT TO DO: When doing any of these movements, practice proper body mechanics. Remember the basic principles. Maintain a straight back. Bend your legs and not your back. The legs should bear most of your body weight. Push instead of pull. Always have a wide-based stance for more balance. And most importantly, use equipment when available, such as mechanical or electronic lifters, turning sheets, or walkers.

3. Another real danger when working as a nursing assistant is the possibility of being sued by the patient or their family. Lawsuits come about when there is negligence on the part of the worker that resulted in the patient's harm. It could also result from disregarding patient rights or from mishandling their health information.

WHAT TO DO: Be vigilant of your patient’s needs. Work within your scope of responsibility and never perform a task beyond what is permitted by your license. Mentally see “Safety First” written all over the workplace. Know your patient's rights and respect their individuality. Regarding the proper handling of patient information, remember that only those who are directly involved in their care should have the information. Always ask the permission of the patient.

4. Protect yourself from abuse. Due to the demands of the job as a CNA, nursing assistants are prone to verbal and even physical abuse from patients, their family, and co-workers. Hostile behaviors at work are possible so do what you can to first prevent it, or if it has already happened, to avert further damage.

WHAT TO DO: It really helps to be extra friendly. People you deal with at work will tend to mirror your emotions, so do your best to keep a light mood all day. Practice respectful assertiveness. If a co-worker demands that you answer their patient’s call light, you respectfully tell them that you will get back to them as soon as you are done with your duties. If you experience any form of incivility from your co-workers, follow institutional policies on how to handle such cases.

5. Protect yourself from getting sick. Working as a CNA can be challenging. The demands of the job can sometimes be overwhelming. Physical demands include lifting, positioning, transferring, and running. Emotional stresses are also present.

WHAT TO DO: Boost up your immunity. If eating on time is a problem, then compensate by choosing only healthy foods to eat. Keep yourself hydrated. Establish an exercise routine. Use your day-off wisely for recreational activities.

When the going gets tough at work being a nursing assistant, remember to protect not only the patient but also yourself. It is the smartest move you may have to do to be successful in your job.


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