What Travel Nurses Need To Know
Having a safe and healthy work environment is critical to the safety of patients, nurses and other staff, and studies have shown that workplace safety is directly linked to patient outcomes and length of stay. Wherever you are on your travel nursing assignments, don’t forget these top tips to ensure a safe, healthy work environment for you, your colleagues and your patients.
Workplace Safety Tips for Travel Nurses
1. Prevent musculoskeletal injuries
When travel nurses are lifting patients or heavy objects, it is essential to think of safety first and foremost. Lifting, turning or transferring patients can lead to musculoskeletal injuries if done incorrectly; nurses must always remember to follow ergonomic principles and protect their backs and joints. There is no such thing as “safe” lifting, as micro-injuries can occur over time and result in a potentially disabling injury.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), hospitals are one of the most hazardous places to work in terms of employee days lost to injuries. “Nearly half (48%) of injuries resulting in days away from work are caused by overexertion, including lifting, bending or reaching. These motions often relate to patient handling.”
Practice safe patient handling by having others help when lifting, turning or transferring patients, and use the lifting equipment provided in the hospital. If you are unfamiliar with any of the equipment, be sure to get the proper training first.
2. Remember Your Patient Transfer Training
Patients are also at risk of being dropped or injured while being transferred. Hackett counsels that “all nurses are trained during school on how to transfer patients from the bed to a wheelchair” and in other movement scenarios, but “as the years go on and things get rushed in the hospital, medical professionals tend to forget some of the basics and just get things done as quickly as they can.” And that creates a workplace hazard.
When it’s time to transfer a patient between positions, remember the importance of “getting the patient involved with the transfer as much as the patient can.” Don’t take their total weight upon yourself and risk a back injury and a patient fall. Hackett says to “get the patient in the correct position and cue them to use their legs (or arms) as much as they can.” Even a little bit of patient help can mean a safer transfer and lowered risk of nurse injury.
3. Prevent Infections
Today, there are more than 20 reported pathogens that can be transmitted from needlesticks, including Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV. Wearing gloves is the start of workplace safety. Most safety protocols also recommend that nurses wear a gown, mask, and eye protection when handling sharps. When finished giving injections, always dispose of needles immediately in the sharps or biohazards container the hospital provides.
Travel RNs in any healthcare environment are exposed to infectious organisms because they are in such close contact with patients. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities have guidelines and standard operating procedures for protection against infectious diseases, such as SARS, influenza, HIV, and Ebola. Nurses should follow evidence-based practices and ask about a hospital’s protocols at orientation, including wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) or other barriers to minimize exposure to these hazards.
Find more details on avoiding needlesticks and sharps injuries from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) National Institute of Occupational Health & Safety and best practices for using PPE from the American Nurses Association.
4. Wash those hands
Sounds simple enough, but hand hygiene is still one of the best strategies to prevent infections. Don’t rush through this critical step, or accidentally skip any of the times it is required throughout the day, such as when entering or exiting a patient’s room. Each time, be sure to:
- Lather up with soap and warm water
- Scrub hands, between fingers, wrists and forearms for at least 20 seconds
- Scrub under fingernails
- Rinse thoroughly
- Dry hands with clean paper towels
- Turn off faucets with paper towels or foot controls
According to the CDC, “Improved adherence to hand hygiene (i.e. hand washing or use of alcohol-based hand rubs) has been shown to terminate outbreaks in health care facilities, to reduce transmission of antimicrobial-resistant organisms (e.g. methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and reduce overall infection rates. Good hand hygiene is the simplest, most effective measure for preventing nosocomial infections, which are infections that a patient acquires while in the hospital.”
Other helpful tips
Remember these helpful tips to ensure workplace safety and a healthy environment:
- Wear comfortable, appropriate footwear for walking and standing for extended periods of time
- Keep hallways, floors, and countertops free of clutter and equipment
When in doubt, ask another nurse to help out
We’re looking for talented nurses who put patient care and safety practices at the top of their list of priorities. Contact AMN Healthcare for the resources and support to help you get started in your new travel nursing job today!