Home care workers face unique challenges in their workplace. Home healthcare is vital to protecting the nation and provides assistance to those who are ill, elderly, convalescing or disabled. Working in the patient’s home, rather than in a healthcare or nursing facility, places the worker in a unique situation and may expose them to a variety of potentially serious challenges. Understanding these safety and health risks, and learning how to guard against them, will help reduce your risk. Home healthcare workers may potentially be exposed to violence, musculoskeletal injuries, driving-related injuries, needle sticks and an increased risk of a latex allergy. Three considerations to protect your health include:
Violence — This is one challenge not often experienced in a healthcare setting. Home health care workers often walk into a home situation unprotected and in an unpredictable environment. The Spectrum of violence a home care worker faces may range from verbal abuse to homicide. While you may not think of it this way, verbal abuse from a client or family member is a form of workplace violence. Verbal abuse may be subtle, such as asking for your assistance beyond the scope of your job or it might be obvious such as threatening to cause harm.
Each time you enter a client’s home, anticipate you may be placed into a situation where violence occurs. Participate in violence prevention training, report all incidents, no matter how minor, to your employer. If your client lives in a high-crime area, consider working with a partner and scheduling visits during the daytime hours. Always let someone know your location and when you expect to report back. When driving, have the windows rolled up and the doors locked and park your vehicle in a well-lit area away from large trees or shrubs. As you would in any uncertain situation, check your surrounding location and activity before you get out of the car, before you get into the car and as you’re traveling back and forth from your car. Always trust your gut! You might feel “silly,” but you want to be safe.
Latex allergy — Approximately 5% of the general population has a latex allergy, but it’s found in up to 12% of healthcare workers. You may suffer from a latex sensitivity causing contact dermatitis without full-blown anaphylaxis associated with a latex allergy. Latex products are made from natural rubber and, with repeated exposure, individuals may develop sensitivities or allergies. If you have a previous history of latex sensitivity, inform your employer so you may be provided with vinyl, nitrile or polymer gloves appropriate for infectious material but with a reduced allergy profile. Wash your hands with mild soap and water after using gloves and be aware of the symptoms of latex allergies, even if you do not have a sensitivity currently. Exposure to latex can result in contact dermatitis, delayed hypersensitivity showing of 24 to 96 hours after contact or an immediate allergic reaction resulting in hives, difficulty breathing and potentially, anaphylactic shock.
Musculoskeletal injury — Working in healthcare often places you in the position of lifting clients, repositioning them in bed or assisting them through their home, sometimes in awkward positions. A work-related injury may occur to your muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint, cartilage, bones or blood vessels. Many times, the area at highest risk for injury is the low back. Your employer has policies and procedures outlining how lifting should be done to protect your back and will provide ergonomic assistive devices, such as slide boards or gait belts, when these are needed. As a healthcare worker, it is important you know these procedures and practice them. Use proper body mechanics when lifting or moving clients, using good posture instead of reaching across the bed or twisting. Notify your employer immediately if you suffer any injury in the workplace.
Are You Working in a Safe Environment?
At Anodyne, we are committed to the health and safety of our clients. We assist our healthcare staff to reduce the potential they may experience any physical or verbal challenges in their work environment. Call us today! We want to help you find your next job.