Nursing Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

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    The nursing profession has a variety of great advantages for its 3 million members. On the other hand, nursing is also permeated with a number of downsides that come with the territory of providing care to sick patients. And some of these downsides can be downright hazardous to the health and safety of nursing staff.

    Nursing Can Be Hazardous To Your Health

    The nursing profession is filled with an array of recognized advantages. For starters, nurses have prospects for professional growth through furthering their education, switching specialties and attaining certifications. Nurses also have opportunities for personal growth through cultivating their internal views on matters such as death and dying, individual responsibility, autonomy, and various social issues. Furthermore, nurses possess the truly awesome chance to positively impact the lives of the patients with whom they interact.

    On the other hand, nursing is pervaded with a number of downsides, some of which can be downright hazardous to one's health, safety, financial situation and family / personal life. We are certainly mindful that some of these risks come with the territory of providing care for sick individuals. However, are we really cognizant about the scores of ghastly threats that await us at the workplace?


    Nurses who work in jails, prisons, free clinics, emergency departments, group homes, pulmonary units in long term acute care hospitals (LTACHs), and community health centers have the highest risk of contracting tuberculosis because the patient populations in these settings typically have not been tested. Some of the patients are infected with tuberculosis, but have not been screened or diagnosed with the disease.


    According to a 2010 study, registered nurses have a divorce rate that is slightly higher than the national average. The divorce rate of licensed practical / vocational nurses (LPNs / LVNs) is significantly higher than the national average. Many nurses work odd shifts and nontraditional hours, which doesn't exactly enrich peoples' personal or family lives.

    Drug Addiction

    According to commonly cited statistics from the American Nurses Association, one in ten nurses (approximately ten percent) currently abuse drugs or are in recovery from substance addiction or alcoholism. While nurses are not any more likely to become addicted than other elements of the general population, the major disparity is the fact that many members of nursing staff have access to addictive drugs through their places of employment.

    Back Injury

    According to the United States Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), almost half of all healthcare employees will have one or more workplace-related back injury during the span of their careers. And more than half of all currently employed nurses have reported persistent back pain.

    Physical Violence

    Nurses, nursing assistants, and other types of direct healthcare workers have been the targets of violence at the workplace in recent years. Healthcare workers comprised 45 percent of non-fatal assaults that resulted in lost work days, based on a 2005 report from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The vast majority of assaults against nursing staff in the US take place in emergency departments and psychiatric hospitals, but workplace violence also occurs in other healthcare settings. Patients sometimes punch, kick, grope, grab and spit on their caregivers, whereas a few throw fecal matter and contaminated items at nursing staff.


    Nurses are at increased risk for suicide, partly as a result of the immensely stressful character of our work. The suicide rate for nurses is 0.11 deaths per 1000, which is greater than the 0.07 suicide rate for the rest of the general population.

    Hepatitis C Virus

    Nurses are at risk of contracting the hepatitis C virus from needle stick injuries and other types of blood exposure. At the present time it is the most common blood borne infection in the United States and affects an estimated four million people in its chronic form across the country. Hepatitis C infects nearly four times as many people in the US as HIV and is forecasted to kill more Americans than HIV by the year 2020.


    Depression is a pervasive problem for nurses in this day and age. A 2012 report subsidized by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Interdisciplinary Nursing Quality Research Initiative (INQRI) unearthed a finding that 18 percent of nurses are depressed, which is about twice the rate of the general public.

    Bad Request
    INQRI Study: Nurses Experience Depression at Twice the Rate of General Public - Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
    Divorce Rates by Profession | Lex Fridman Blog
    Last edit by Joe V on Nov 4, '16
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  3. by   txredheadnurse
    I wish it was possible to like this a zillion times. The price of nursing on a personal level is downright horrendous for many of us.
  4. by   liebling5
    I think this article should be required reading whenever nurses are asking for increased salaries and benefits. I think the saddest fact of our profession is that we are often the LAST ones to seek medical or mental help. Maybe we can do better by supporting ourselves and advocate that we (and our coworkers) have access to and actually use the restorative tools we desperately need.
  5. by   cee cee g
    Thank you for letting us know the good and the bad about nursing. But to be honest we put ourselves in some kind of danger when we step out of the door every morning, afternoon, or night. I have the Lord, I walk with the Lord and I fear nothing. Nursing is what I am called to do and with God by my side it will be done.
  6. by   amoLucia
    Another great article.

    Should be required reading for nursing school attendees early in their education pathway (doubt that would ever happen).
  7. by   BSNbeauty
    Great Article, and I 100 percent agree. I, have personally working as nurse has definitely not helped my diagnosis of depression. In fact, it made it worse. Thankfully, I was able to switch to a less stressful specialty and notice a huge difference.
    Don't forget you may gain weight due to all the holiday parties and cookies at the nursing station. Oh wait, that is just me.
  8. by   brandy1017
    I would also say nurses have more problems with obesity and I believe probably HTN from the stress, noise, constant alarms, long shifts, lack of sleep and increased stress hormones and cortisol we are bathed in. Also anxiety and depression are pervasive as well and I think its a combination of the stress overload and the high patient ratios and short staffing many of us face! But I think back, neck and shoulder injuries are the most common problem many healthcare workers deal with many living in chronic pain because of the lack of safe lift equipment and no lift environments coupled with the increase in the obese and superobese patients! Night shift workers have higher rates of breast cancer as well.
  9. by   malestunurse
    Quote from brandy1017
    I would also say nurses have more problems with obesity and I believe probably HTN from the stress, noise, constant alarms, long shifts, lack of sleep and increased stress hormones and cortisol we are bathed in.
    Lack of breaks and eating on the go would be a big factor in this as well. I was having a chat to one of my supervisors a little while ago and we both noted that there seem to be a disproportionate amount of overweight nurses about.
  10. by   AngelicDarkness
    Quote from malestunurse
    Lack of breaks and eating on the go would be a big factor in this as well. I was having a chat to one of my supervisors a little while ago and we both noted that there seem to be a disproportionate amount of overweight nurses about.
    Well said. I know I'm the first to hit up McDonalds for food and a bathroom break after work because of that.
  11. by   smartnurse1982
    That explains why I have no stable relationships.
    Men that I have dated always said I had no time for them,so they bolted.
    I had to work,and I work nights on top of that.
    So I just have a bunch of ONS to satisfy the need for closeness.

    I had a Hep C scare 3 years ago from a needlestick,but I don't have it.

    I look older than my 31 years of age,but that's because I have worked 9 yrs as a nurse,starting at 22.

    I'm always hungry after a shift,and yes,sadly,I'm overweight by 60 pounds.

    Well,there are some joys in life I suppose.
  12. by   carefulcare
    Thank you for sharing this information
  13. by   Ruth_SJRN
    The safety of nurses from workplace-induced injuries and illnesses is important to nurses themselves as well as to the patients they serve. The presence of healthy and well-rested nurses is critical to providing vigilant monitoring, empathic patient care, and vigorous advocacy. So if the nurses got stricken by illnesses, it will impact and falter their rendered services. It's one of the toughest jobs around. This is a great read for everyone.
  14. by   duckydot28
    As depressing as this might be to read, I think it can only be helpful to get this information out there and make sure that nurses--and those that surround them--are aware of these realities. Maybe then we can start working on aid/solutions.