The Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) is speaking up for health worker safety for International Nurses Day.
The event, every 12 May, marks the contribution nurses make to society and is celebrated around the world.
IOSH President Jimmy Quinn said: “This is a day to show our appreciation for nurses, who are caring for millions of patients across the globe and have gone above and beyond during the pandemic.
“It also presents an opportunity to highlight the importance of keeping them safe and well.
“We believe health and safety for nurses should be viewed as business as usual.”
IOSH’s Health and Social Care Group provides guidance and support to members and works in partnership with key stakeholders, such as the World Health Organization. Its committee members include Julia Johnston, Lead Health and Safety Advisor for an NHS Scotland Board, and Gary Monaghan, Team Manager Occupational Health and Safety, Worcestershire County Council.
Julia explained that while nurses are the backbone of healthcare, they don’t always recognise their importance.
“Nurses often selflessly focus on their patients rather than themselves, which could potentially compromise their own health,” she said. “So, it’s important their physical and psychological health and safety is embedded into everyday business.”
Potential consequences include absences from work.
“If nurses can’t perform their clinical duties, there’s no one there to provide that excellent patient-centred care that everyone wants,” said Gary.
Health and safety management systems are key to protecting staff, whether they’re based in hospitals, care facilities, external buildings or the community.
Julia said: “It is about continuously improving those systems while working collaboratively with colleagues to ensure a safe, pragmatic approach is taken.”
Gary highlighted one area that has dramatically improved – violence and aggression.
“There are better systems in place for reporting it and going through the judicial system and, most importantly, supporting nurses to say it’s not normal and not acceptable,” he said.
The awareness day, which is organised by the International Council of Nurses, comes at a time when there is a global shortage of nurses.
This can be an added burden for nurses, who are perhaps having to work harder because of limited staff, said Julia.
Looking to the future, in line with the campaign theme of Nurses: A Voice to Lead – A vision for future healthcare, Gary believes there will be greater emphasis on community nursing.
“More staff are doing community-based visits and a lot of nurses are also more involved in the preventative strands of medicine.”
This will bring different risks to consider, such as lone working.
They agree that the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the resilience of nurses – but there will be a far-reaching impact on their physical and psychological wellbeing.
“Going forward, it should be about recognising the need to focus on nurses as individuals and supporting them in the workplace,” said Julia.
Gary said: “There are a lot more support mechanisms in place. However, Covid has put that into a different stratosphere.”
He believes that adopting the Quality Improvement Methodology is the way forward.
“It’s a proven scientific way of getting measurable results, whether it’s patient care or health and safety,” he said.
Julia added: “Nursing for the future will be recognised as an inspiring career and a career to aspire to.”