5 Nurse Safety Tips for New Nurses

nurse safetyBy Sarah Stasik

As a new nurse, it’s important to understand nurse safety issues that you might encounter on the job. 

While you already know the standard nurse safety procedures—such as being aware of blood-borne pathogens—nurse safety requires paying attention to your mental health, the behavior of patients and coworkers and your general environment. 

The five nurse safety issues below are common to any medical environment, so knowing how to mitigate them is important.

Remember, you can't help your patients if you haven't first helped yourself.

5 Nurse Safety Issues and Tips to Mitigate Them

1. Ignoring burnout symptoms is bad for nurses and patients

Dr. Jesse J. Keifer, a double board certified physician in anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, says nursing burnout is dangerous for RNs as well as the patient. 

Clinicians dealing with nursing burnout have "a higher incidence of error, worse patient outcomes and increased professional misconduct," he says.

That puts your career and patients at risk, but the errors could also lead to injury or illness for you too. Burnout also typically comes with symptoms such as depression, anxiety or exhaustion.

Nurse Safety Tip: Never assume you don't have options; if you're feeling burned out, talk to your supervisor about schedule changes.

2. Everyday stressors can lead to chronic illness

In "Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses," the authors note that stressors associated with nursing work can produce injuries and diseases long-term. Some things that can contribute to this risk include:

  • The physical demands of nursing jobs
  • Fast-based, stressful environments
  • Environmental hazards, including machines and chemicals

Nurse Safety Tip: Make it a point to schedule self-care activities such as exercise, sleeping, massage, reading or getting out with friends to counteract work stressors.

3. Sleep deprivation puts you at risk on the road

Almost a third of American adults are sleep deprived, and the problem is likely increased for nurses. 

Night-shift nurses especially often get less sleep than is healthy, and that can lead to risks at work, at home and on the road. Driving while drowsy is a real risk for many healthcare workers.

Nurse Safety Tip: If your schedule makes it hard to get seven hours of sleep every night, fill in the gap with power naps. 

While short catnaps don't replace a good night's sleep, they can energize you and make you more aware of your surroundings.

4. Workplace violence is possible in hospitals

From irate patients to unhappy coworkers, people do cause violence in medical settings. Nurses can get caught in the crossfire when patients bicker with family members, someone has a problem with the doctor's orders or stress causes coworkers to come to blows.

Nurse Safety Tip: Ask about continuing education opportunities that involve conflict resolution training so you're more prepared to deal with issues before they turn violent.

[RELATED: Lateral Violence in Nursing: How to Deal with Bullying in the Workplace]

5. Small safety hazards are worth paying attention to

Nursing ranks as one of the occupations with the highest incidence of slips, trips and falls. 

Nurses moving quickly to aid patients may be distracted and not see a hazard such as a spill, and these small dangers can be as disastrous for your safety as any larger workplace issue.

Nurse Safety Tip: Slow down slightly and pay attention to your surroundings. You can't help your patient if you fall and hurt yourself while rushing to their aid.

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