If you’ve ever watched So You Think You Can Dance, you’ve probably realized you can’t do it that well after all. So You Think You Can Pilot a Space Shuttle? Not even a real show, but if it were, chances are you couldn’t do that, either — though it would make for compelling reality television.
How about a show called So You Think You Can Be a Nurse? If you’re a medical professional, you’re probably thinking, “I’ve so got this.” Unfortunately, no such show is coming to TLC anytime soon — you’re stuck with dramas like Grey’s Anatomy and Saving Hope for now (as juicy as they are) — but you’re not alone if you sometimes think, “How am I even coping?”
You’ve gone through the training; you’ve had your share of difficult patients, and now you’ve earned the right to vent. While there are some incredibly gratifying things about being a nurse, you’ve also realized that, oh, wait, this profession can be sort of dangerous sometimes. And only your fellow nurses can understand your woes.
Here are eight workplace dangers only nurses have to deal with (and, really, deserve more appreciation for putting up with them).
1. Accidental Needle Sticks
Even after the enactment of the Needlestick and Safety Prevention Act, passed by Congress in 2000 to ensure safer equipment for medical professionals, you’ve heard the recent stats — the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OHSA) estimates 5.6 million health care professionals are at risk of blood borne pathogens from accidental sticks.
What is a nurse to do with this danger? Put on her best armor, of course.
Skip the scrubs — it’s time to party like it’s 500 B.C. You need to get medieval on your patients, even if you look like a gladiator. Worst case scenario? You’ll appear as a “knight in shining armor.” Literally.
If only your hospital administrator would approve this new uniform policy. For now, you’re “stuck” — pun intended — wearing your scrubs and being extra-cautious when it comes to handling needles. Someday, maybe, your hospital administrator will let you wear some metal and re-enact the Middle Ages at the same time.
2. Infection From Body Secretions
You know that urine sample you just asked your new patient to provide? Treat it like a bomb.
No, it’s not going to blow up on you — hopefully — but it’s a bodily fluid capable of transmitting infection if you’re not careful. If you’ve been in the business long enough, you’ve probably also dealt with blood, semen and vaginal fluids. All of these put you at risk of exposure to hepatitis C (HCV), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and other diseases.
Chances are your patient isn’t a walking explosion, but you don’t want to take your chances. Always wear gloves when handling body secretions. Really, you don’t want to touch it directly anyway, right? Let’s face it — it’s pretty gross, no matter what your patient is being admitted for.
3. Smoke Plume
Remember your high school chemistry classes? Benzene, carbon monoxide, formaldehyde and the rest of those fancy names? You probably can’t name them all, but they create toxic gasses that are harmful to your own respiratory system when you’re exposed to them.
If you spend any time in an operating room, you’re especially at risk of exposure to surgical smoke. Wear the mask now, whether it’s made of the traditional procedure fabric or even the gorilla-themed plastic you put on during last October’s crazy party. Just make sure you do what you can to make sure you’re breathing in oxygen, not noxious fumes.
4. Aching Feet
You’re familiar with the Billy Ray Cyrus song, “Achy Breaky Heart.” But what about those achy breaky feet you know so well?
As a nurse, you’re sick of hearing cubicle monkeys complain about eight hours of sitting in front of a computer. You’re on your feet all day, often for 12-hour shifts, multiple days in a row. If anyone has the right to complain, it’s you!
The agony of the feet (not defeat) is no joke. Sometimes, ibuprofen doesn’t cut it. You know what? You deserve a massage. You’re in the helping profession, so go spoil yourself with a much-earned rub down. You earned it.