The American Nurses Association (ANA) recently released the results to its 2011 Health and Safety Survey. A total of 4,614 nurses responded, voicing their concerns about health and safety in their work environments. A similar survey was conducted in 2001; comparing results of both surveys provides a glimpse into how working conditions have changed over the past 10 years.
Results show improvement
Overall, nurses responding to the survey indicated that positive improvements have been made in recent years. Since 2001, more patient lifting and transfer devices are on hand; there has been a reduction in physical assaults, verbal abuse, and threats; and safe needle devices are more widely available. Also, work schedules appear to be improving. The 2011 results indicate that fewer nurses are working more than 40 hours per week and mandatory or unplanned overtime is less common.
Ongoing health and safety concerns
While progress has been made, issues still exist that threaten the well-being and safety of nurses. Nurses’ top three concerns included:
- The effects of stress and overwork (74%)
- Developing a disabling musculoskeletal injury (62%)
- Contracting an infectious diseases (43%)
The top two concerns reported in 2001 remained the same in 2011. This indicates that more work is needed to address these issues and to protect nurses.
The health and safety of nurses is a top priority for ANA. There are several educational materials currently available that nurses and employers can use to make positive changes in the workplace. For instance, ANA’s “Handle with Care” program provides guidance on implementing safe patient handing programs. The “Safe Needles Save Lives” program outlines how nurses can become involved in sharps safety efforts within their workplace. Additionally, ANA will be hosting the 2012 Healthy Nurse conference on June 14, 2012. The theme of the conference is “Nurses as Models of Wellness in Action.” Session topics will include stress reduction techniques, effects of staffing practices on nurses’ well-being, and chemical exposures in the workplace.
Jaime Murphy Dawson is a senior policy analyst at ANA.