The very real dangers of hospital work

When people think about the most dangerous professions, they likely think of ice road truckers, deep sea fisherman or perhaps construction workers. All of these careers carry higher-than-average risks for the people who pursue them. However, one very dangerous field of work that people rarely recognize as such is hospital work. Every day, health care workers in Ramsey County risk exposure to disease and to serious injuries caused by their work.

Nurses, nurse's aides and others who are responsible for the direct physical care of patients incur real risk of both injury and illness. Many times, nurses and other health care workers end up needing workers' compensation benefits while they recover. Medical benefits, as well as compensation for lost wages, can help offset the financial impact of an occupational illness or injury.

There are many ways for health care workers to end up sick

Obviously, working in close contact with people carrying infectious diseases can increase your risk of contracting those same diseases. People cough, sneeze, vomit and otherwise expose hospital workers to bodily fluids and pathogens all day long. Even the most robust immune systems can end up unable to fight off all those germs. Hospitals are also a common source of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which can cause skin infections, or worse.

There is another source of disease risk for nurses and phlebotomists. Handling needles to administer drugs or draw blood for testing can result in needle sticks. This can transmit blood-borne pathogens, such as HIV or hepatitis, if the blood of an infected patient is already on the needle or syringe.

Health care workers wind up hurt for many reasons

Violence from patients is another risk factor, as those under the influence of drugs or suffering from mental conditions or dementia may lash out at those providing care. However, there are many other potential risks that keep hospital workers at higher risk for injury than even construction and manufacturing workers.

While violence accounts for 9 percent of worker injuries, overexertion and musculoskeletal strain are responsible for a staggering 48 percent of health care worker's injuries. While that may seem counter-intuitive, it makes sense when you consider that the average American's weight has increased substantially over the last few decades. As part of their jobs, nurses and aides must lift, carry and assist people, regardless of their shape or size. That can result in sprains, strains, herniated discs in the spine and even broken bones in some cases.

Nurses who sustain injuries related to the care of patients often end up as patients themselves. They deserve workers' compensation, just like any other person who gets injured while doing their jobs.

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