Nursing is a noble profession—it requires treating patients with compassion, sometimes in their greatest time of need. But nurses are often subject to violence and safety risks both in hospital and home settings. We know violence occurs, but it goes underreported—one study found that 88% of violent issues in a hospital were not formally documented.
Visiting or home nurses are likely subject to even more violence because of the unique setting in which they work—traveling from house to house or apartment to apartment, and interacting with patients in their own homes. Violence these nurses do encounter is more likely to be documented in their patient notes than reported to their organization.
Here’s how visiting and home nurse organizations can reduce the risks against their nurses while traveling and while in patient homes.
Safety in the home
Crossing the threshold into a patient’s home means trusting that it’s a safe environment and you’ll be treated with respect. Visiting nurses could be subject to environments with illegal drugs and guns, verbal abuse, violence and assault. They also risk more exposure to blood-borne pathogens, communicable diseases and unhygienic conditions.
To protect nurses in the home, organizations should focus on a range of preventive strategies including in-home violence training, recognizing verbal abuse, infection control plans, and disposal plans for needles and worksite recordkeeping and evaluation. Following OSHA’s “Guidelines for Preventing Workplace Violence for Healthcare and Social Service Workers” on how to develop a violence prevention program ensures nurses take measures to prevent violence and accurately document issues.
Safety while traveling
To maximize nurse safety, organizations should ensure nurses have forms of emergency communication and train them frequently on what to do in neighborhoods where crime rates are high.
To determine what risks nurses may face in their travels, organizations should consider using data to understand crime risk. CAP Index’s CRIMECAST reports can be used to determine the prevalence and types of crimes that typically occur in a given neighborhood, enabling organizations to plan when and if visits should occur. Armed with this information, home health and visiting nurse organizations can determine if appointments should take place during daylight hours or if a security escort is needed for a nurse to make a visit.
For home health and visiting nurses, avoiding all risk is impossible. But understanding the factors that could increase risk in a neighborhood and in a patient home can help organizations and nurses plan and work toward preventing violence.
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