Risks you face when you are a nurse in Connecticut

Published 03/23/22 Written by Ingenuity & Solutions | Last updated on April 13, 2023

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It is known that a worker of any profession or occupation may be subject to the risk of becoming ill or suffering a trauma related to the work they perform. The branch that deals with problems associated with work is occupational medicine or occupational health. Occupational health includes the study of diseases related to tasks, the position, and the workplace, accidents that may occur in the middle or during working time or between jobs, and the risks of illness or accident present in work environments.

The World Health Organization (WHO) states that occupational health encompasses all aspects of health and safety in the workplace, focusing mainly on the primary prevention of risks. Furthermore, the WHO promotes the development of this area, claiming that working people's occupational health and well-being are fundamental requirements for productivity and are of paramount importance for socio-economic and sustainable development in general.

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The risks at work are diverse and are distributed in a wide range of levels of impact and probability of occurrence. These range from a low probability of acquiring a relatively minor ailment, to a high risk of dying from an accident or occupationally related illness.

Health workers also face risks of accidents or illnesses due to their occupation. In this task, the psychological stress generated by dealing with sick people is pointed out as a frequent and vital risk, hoping that the care they receive will improve their health. They can suffer the contagion due to handling people infected by infectious diseases. 

The WHO mentions seven types of risks to which health workers are the following:

  • Biological like VIH, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and tuberculosis

  • Chemicals like exposition with glutaraldehyde and ethylene oxide.

  • Physical such as noise and radiation.

  • Ergonomic such as heavy lifting.

  • Psychosocial such as stress and violence.

  • Related to fire such as explosions and contact with electricity.

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  • Biological risks

They are live or inert agents capable of producing or inactive agents capable of growing infectious diseases or allergic reactions produced by direct contact of people who are occupationally exposed to these agents.

The transmission mechanisms of occupational infections in the nursing staff are percutaneous or contact with blood or body fluids, parenteral, infectious secretions, and respiratory routes.

The main viral contaminating agents of the nursing staff are hepatitis B and C, HIV, and bacteria such as tuberculosis and tetanus, among others.

The main biological risk control measures are associated with the development of a program for health promotion and prevention of professional pathologies due to these risks related to universal precautions and the application of adequate and timely protocols to deal with accidents and biological risk work.

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  • Chemical Risk

Chemical risks are generated when the worker is exposed to the different chemical substances present in the work area, such as: inhalational anesthetic agents (nitrous oxide, enflurane, sevoflurane, halothane, etc.); sterilizing agents (ethylene oxide); alcohols (propylene glycol, methyl alcohol, isopropyl alcohol, etc.); aldehydes (glutaraldehyde, formaldehyde, etc.); cytostatics (methotrexate, docetaxel, vinblastine, etc.); endocrine disruptors (solvents, dioxins, styrene, etc.), metals (lead, silver, mercury, etc.); sanitary waste and other chemical products (disinfectants, solvents, paints, etc.).

These risks are not evaluated by the concentration of the substance but by the time of exposure to it. In other words, exposure to these substances can become dangerous due to the recurrence time, and as we already know, the rate is high. Most nursing workers spend much of their working life surrounded by these substances.

  • Physical risks

There are many physical risks. One of them is violence by patients. Patient violence is a genuine concern for nursing staff. Alarmingly, the American Nursing Association has reported that 1 in 4 nurses have experienced physical violence or assault from a patient. These attacks cause bruising, pain, swelling, and even Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

  • Psychosocial risks

They are defined as phenomena, situations, or actions produced by human interaction with the political, social, labor, and cultural environment, where their non-correspondence can affect the physical and mental health of the worker. These risks affect the quality of life and production at work. Psychosocial risk factors related to nursing work are:

- Inadequate organization of work: the abolition of Nursing Departments, in some health institutions, has repercussions on the loss of identity and autonomy at work

- Multiple employment and job flexibility: aspects that increase exposure to occupational risk factors

- Night and shift work: which unbalances the physical, mental and social health of this workgroup

- Work overload: for the additional family workday.

- Lack of incentives and professional development: there is no salary scale nor access to promotion levels.

- Feelings of anguish and depression: due to permanent contact with pain and illness.

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  • Ergonomic Risk

They refer to the characteristics of the work environment that cause an imbalance between performance requirements and the ability of workers to perform tasks.

These risk factors are associated with posture, strength, movement, tools, work media, and the work environment. The main ergonomic risk factors related to nursing work.

  • Exposition

The nursing staff is potentially exposed to various substances that threaten their safety, including chemotherapy, x-rays, dangerous drugs, and even pesticides. In addition, the very nature of their work puts them at greater risk of coming into direct contact with people who have infectious or contagious diseases.

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Emotional damage

In addition to physical injuries, nurses can experience emotional damage due to an incredibly stressful career. They may have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression, or other psychological conditions due to the stressors of their work and violence from patients.


The recognition of the risks experienced by nurses has also contributed to developing prevention measures and programs. In 2002, the ILO and the WHO published the "Framework Guidelines for dealing with workplace violence in the health sector". In 2007, another joint effort between both organizations gave rise to a document regulating post-exposure prophylaxis for the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV.


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