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This profile summarizes the common issues and duties for a registered nurse. Nurses can work in a wide variety of health care settings or workplaces. Depending on where you live, the duties of a nurse (registered, licensed practical, aid versus other types of nursing) may vary.
Because each workplace is unique, there is no way to predict all of the possible hazards you may encounter. This summary focuses on the major job duties that most nurses would have in common when working in a hospital.
Main duties of a registered nurse include:
Some nurses may specialize in other fields such as occupational health or public health. Occupational health nurses can provide employee health education programs and care in private businesses or industries. Public health nurses offer health education through either public health departments or through home visits.
Nurses can be exposed to contagious and infectious diseases including those that can be transmitted through the air (e.g., TB - tuberculosis), blood-borne diseases such as AIDS, hepatitis B and C and hand to hand transmission (e.g., Clostridium difficile). There is also the risk of exposure to multi-drug resistant organisms such as multi-drug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB), Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and others.
As a consequence of the need for frequent hand washing, skin conditions such as dermatitis may occur.Illness as the result of a needlestick injury is also a concern.
In a hospital environment, nurses may encounter:
There are many situations where physical demands involve force, repetition, awkward postures and prolonged activities. These include:
Nurses can be exposed to:
In a hospital, there are many situations where there is equipment in various places, liquid on floors, etc. The main hazards from these situations are slips, trips and falls. There is also a risk of items falling onto the person.Nurses may also be exposed to burns or scalds from hot sterilizing equipment, and stabs or cuts from sharp objects.
Responsibility of care, emergencies, and the need to make certain decisions when others cannot be found can increase the stress experienced by some people. Exposure to serious traumatic events (or consequence of the event) is another cause of stress. As with most emergency services, there will be long periods of quiet or routine interrupted abruptly by periods of intense stress or activity.
However, it is important to note the positive aspects of being a nurse. It is a highly respected profession and highly valued in the community. Also, there is usually a high sense of team membership.
Several target organs may be adversely affected by prolonged exposure to chemicals including the respirator, neurologic, reproductive, dermal, and hematopoietic systems. For example, ethylene oxide has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a known human carcinogen (Group 1).
Other long-term health effects may include:
Source: Nurse, general (institutional) From: International Hazard Datasheets on Occupations, International Occupational Safety and Health Information Centre (CIS).
Nurses will need to know:
All workers should:
Because of the wide variety of workplaces where nursing may occur, and the vast range of activities done and materials used by nurses, all situations cannot be covered in this document.
NOTE: If you have health concerns, ask your doctor or medical professional for advice.
If you have any questions or concerns about your specific workplace, you can ask one or more of the following for help:
General information is available in OSH Answers or through the CCOHS person-to-person Inquiries Service.
Add a badge to your website or intranet so your workers can quickly find answers to their health and safety questions.
Although every effort is made to ensure the accuracy, currency and completeness of the information, CCOHS does not guarantee, warrant, represent or undertake that the information provided is correct, accurate or current. CCOHS is not liable for any loss, claim, or demand arising directly or indirectly from any use or reliance upon the information.