Nurses Say Health and Safety Concerns Play Major Role in Employment Decisions
Washington, DC --America's registered nurses report that health and safety concerns play a major role in their decisions to remain in the profession, according to findings from an on-line health and safety survey conducted on NursingWorld.org -- the official Web site of the American Nurses Association (ANA).
In the survey, 88 percent of nurses reported that health and safety concerns influence their decisions to continue working in the field of nursing and the kind of nursing work they choose to perform. Over 70 percent (70.5%) of nurses cited the acute and chronic effects of stress and overwork as one of their top three health and safety concerns. Yet nurses continue to be pushed harder -- with more than two-thirds reporting that they work some type of
mandatory or unplanned overtime every month. Some (10%) report working overtime as many as eight times a month.
"Nurses are continuously asked to do more with less," said ANA President Mary Foley, MS, RN. "Patients will not get the type of care they deserve when nurses are stressed, overworked and concerned for their own health and safety."
In addition to the number one concern of stress and overwork, nurses cited a disabling back injury (60%) followed by contracting HIV or hepatitis from a needlestick injury (45%) among their top three health and safety concerns. Other responses that garnered double-digit percentages were the possibilities of being infected with tuberculosis or another disease (37%), sustaining an on-the-job assault (25%), developing a latex allergy (21%) and having a
fatigue-related car accident after a shift (18.8%).
The 4,826 nurses who responded to the survey represent a cross section of nurses from every age group, years of experience, and types of care facilities. However, the highest percentage of nurse respondents were between 41 and 50 years old and had more than 10 years experience. These demographics are consistent with the findings in the 2000 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services that cites
the average age of registered nurses as 45.2 years.
"The survey confirms that nurses are working in high stress and even dangerous environments," said Foley. "We will not be able to retain today's practicing nurses or attract people into the profession if we can't improve working conditions, compensation and address health and safety concerns."
Findings from the Health and Safety Survey further revealed that fewer than 20 percent of nurses responding felt safe in their current work environment. Seventeen percent (17%) of nurses responding had been physically assaulted in the past year and more than half (56.6%) were threatened or experienced verbal abuse. The implementation of federal law to require the use of safer needle devices has made a significant impact; however, almost 20 percent
(20%) of nurse respondents revealed that their facilities still do not provide safe needle devices for injections, IV insertions, and phlebotomy procedures. An even greater percentage (39%) confirmed that their facilities continue to use powdered latex gloves, a hazard known to cause severe allergic reactions in patients and workers with latex allergies. Continued exposure to latex is a significant factor in developing an allergy. Additionally, nurse
respondents stated that more than half the facilities in which they worked didn't have lifting and transfer devices readily available for moving patients. Use of lifting devices can significantly decrease nurses' risk of back injuries.
The question consumers must ask is how these health and safety concerns are affecting the delivery of high quality nursing care. Nurses responded overwhelmingly (75.8%) that unsafe working conditions do, in fact, interfere with their ability to deliver quality care a statistic that should sound an alarm with consumers.
Similar concerns over quality nursing care were also found in ANA's February 2001 Staffing Survey. According to that survey, 75 percent of nurse respondents felt the quality of nursing care at the facility in which they work had declined over the past two years, while 56 percent believed that the time they had available for patient care had decreased.
"Nurses shouldn't fear for their own health and safety when they go to work," said Foley. "The survey results call for immediate action to make the health care workplace safe. With the nation facing problems of nurse shortages and attrition, health and safety concerns must be addressed if employers want to successfully recruit and retain nurses."
The 2001 ANA Health & Safety Survey was commissioned by ANA and analyzed by Cornerstone Communications. The findings released today are based on the responses of 4,826 nurses. The survey was conducted July 11 - Aug. 15, 2001, via ANA's Web site, www.NursingWorld.org.