Health care workers more prone to work injury, study finds

Few professions carry the importance and respect as do jobs in the health care industry. Yet a report released by the National Patient Safety Foundation's Lucian Leape Institute indicates that health care workers are more prone to workplace injuries and sicknesses than professions in other fields.

The report, released in March, noted that health care workers average 5.6 injuries per 100 full-time employees every year, which is 33 percent higher than the rate for workers in the private sector. Other important notes included in the report indicate that:

  • Abuse is prominent in the health care industry, as both emotional abuse and physical threats are considered a "normal" part of many health care jobs
  • Severe time constraints and job pressures have reduced job satisfaction and increased stress, leading to more susceptibility to illness and injury
  • Health care workers experience more injuries and sickness than workers in industries more commonly thought to be dangerous, such as mining, machinery manufacturing and construction

Specific dangers to some medical professionals

While all medical professionals are at an increased risk of illness and injury, certain medical occupations pose specific threats. Surgeons, for example, have an increased risk for injuries caused by needles - with the accompanying risk of contracting serious infectious diseases, according to an article in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

Such injuries can be costly. The study noted that costs for simple testing, follow-up and preventive treatment for so-called "sharps injuries" average $375 from a patient with no known blood-borne illness, while testing for the same type of injury involving a patient with HIV can cost $2,500.

According to a report by the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, institutions in the medical field can focus on the following seven actions to reduce the risk to both patients and health care professionals:

  • Keep a focus on implementing and supporting safety initiatives
  • Use a team approach to safety
  • Collect data regarding infection control, negative events, risk management and patient and worker satisfaction
  • Train workers regularly on core competencies regarding safety for patients and workers
  • Create a "just culture" to support all workers and patients
  • Use safety and quality committees
  • Use a multidisciplinary approach across departments and programs

Workers' compensation

Whether or not a job carries with it an increased risk of injury or illness, a worker injured on the job may be able to obtain workers' compensation benefits in order to help with medical bills and lost wages. Health care workers who have been injured on the job should contact an experienced workers' compensation attorney to discuss their legal options.