Archive July 2016 XVII, No. 7

Surgeon and Staff Safety: Lost in the Shuffle

Does your OR team focus as much on its own safety as that of the patient's?

Daniel Cook

Daniel Cook, Executive Editor

BIO

sharps injuries POINT TAKEN Many facility leaders say they've witnessed sharps injuries, but few require the use of hands-free passing.

For your surgeons and staff, the OR is littered with landmines. If they don't slip on the wet floor or trip on the crisscross of cords, knives and needles could poke them or toxic plumes could choke them. But our survey of nearly 150 surgical leaders uncovered an even more treacherous occupational hazard: OR team members' almost cavalier disregard for their own safety.

"Let's be honest, employee safety isn't at the top of anyone's agenda," says Mary Foley, PhD, RN, FAAN, a clinical professor at the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing. "We need to constantly remind everyone that there's plenty of work remaining in order to prevent tragic injuries that continue to occur."

Some speculate that surgeons and staff neglect their own safety because they're so intent on caring for patients. But staff and patient safety "have to align," says Dr. Foley. "Otherwise, staff might think patients matter more and they'll settle for less when it comes to their own well-being. That's when people get hurt."

Only 11% of our survey respondents say a member of the OR team hasn't gotten hurt on their watch (see survey results on p. 66). Why do caregivers continue to put themselves in harm's way? Some blame the long history in health care of workers' thinking patient care trumps their own personal safety.

"In the back of their minds they continue to be aware of the hazards, but it's very difficult to get them to change their practice patterns," says Dr. Foley. "Good habits, when formed early, are the expectation, but bad habits remain forever."

Slightly more than 4 out of 5 respondents (81%) say someone on their staff has been poked or sliced by a sharp, a little more than half have had to deal with slipping and tripping mishaps, and one-third say a member of their team has suffered an ergonomic injury.

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