Every worker is exposed to some form of hazards while on their job. For nursing assistants, however, the risk for injuries is higher than in most occupations.
The physical and emotional demands of the job expose CNAs to many types of dangers. They are likely to get injured as they help patients with their daily activities, such as bathing, toileting, walking, and moving around. Often they have to deal with difficult patients and co-workers who are prone to being verbally and physically abusive. Also, CNAs usually handle different toxic chemicals that can be potentially harmful.
With these hazards in mind, nursing assistants like you must always protect themselves by following some basic safety precautions below:
1. Infection control protocols.
CNAs are at risk of getting an infection at work because they care for patients with infectious diseases. As a general precaution, health workers are required to perform hand hygiene before and after any care procedure. With proper handwashing or the correct use of hand sanitizers, you break the chain of infection and prevent the spread of microorganisms that could make you or other patients ill.
You can further protect yourself by using personal protective equipment or PPE as needed. PPE act as barriers to prevent contact with harmful organisms and therefore prevent transmitting diseases.
Gloves, for example, shields against blood-borne diseases. It covers any open wound you may have on your hands when there’s a chance of exposure to the patient’s body fluids such as blood, urine, and feces. This PPE is also required when handling contaminated equipment or a patient’s sample for laboratory procedures.
Masks are PPE that protect against respiratory diseases and from accidental splashes of the patient’s body fluids. When you wear a mask, be sure to throw it away properly after use.
Disposable plastic aprons and gowns, on the other hand, protect your scrubs from soiling. You must wear one when caring for patients with extensive skin conditions, such as burns. Contaminated scrubs are a source of infection, so the staff wear gowns whenever necessary.
2. Proper body mechanics.
One of the basic safety precautions for CNAs is practicing correct posture or movement to prevent injuries while performing strenuous procedures. Many CNAs hurt their backs or suffer muscle and joint injuries because they fail to follow proper body mechanics. As you work, keep in mind the following:
a. Always stand with your feet slightly apart. This stance will give you the best balance.
b. Bend your knees instead of your waist when lifting or when picking something up from the floor. Your legs can support your upper body when you carry something heavy and prevent you from injuring your back.
c. Avoid sudden twists by moving your body as a unit. Make a full turn to the side instead of twisting your body. This technique protects your back muscles and hip joints from injury.
d. Perform procedures as close to the patient as possible. Avoid bending over to reach for an area. Keep the bed at your hip level when performing a procedure because this is the most comfortable way to work.
3. Use of assistive devices and equipment.
Many devices and pieces of equipment are designed specifically to make healthcare workers do their job easier. An example is a mechanical or an electric lifter. When available, this equipment transfers patients from the bed to a chair or vice versa. Utilize it to save your energy and to prevent the risk of injury from heavy lifting.
In a similar situation, use a draw sheet to move patients in bed. Draw sheets help shift the patient as a unit without having to lift or drag them.
If a patient is weak or unstable, utilize a wheelchair when moving them from one place to another. This technique prevents both you and your patient from falling over.
Another creative way to avoid the hazards of carrying heavy stuff is to put supplies on a trolley or a cart. Other than preventing unnecessary strain on your body, these transporting equipments save you several trips, too.
4. Emergency safety procedures.
CNAs must be alert to possible emergencies such as fire, earthquakes, and the like. Agencies have protocols for these, and you must be prepared to react appropriately to keep you and others unharmed should such a situation happen.
A basic rule is not allowing smoking or lighting a match when oxygen is in use. Another tip is to drop cover and hold when you sense an earthquake.
5. Handle chemicals with care.
Nursing assistants are exposed to many potentially toxic substances in their line of work. They use disinfectants and cleansers that have a beneficial purpose but can be dangerous when incorrectly handled. Wear gloves when necessary. Read and follow the instructions on the product label. Avoid mixing chemicals because they create toxic fumes or harm you in many ways.
Keeping yourself from dangers at all times is one way to have a rewarding experience as a CNA. Workplace hazards need not ruin your career if you are always ready to follow safety protocols.
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