Hospice care providers offer families of individuals with terminal illnesses an invaluable service and many families have turned to this care option over the past 20 years. However, as with any vocation in the medical field, hospice employees face a number of on-the-job risks.
On-the-job risks hospice employees face can be broken down into several categories, which include biological hazards, chemical hazards, physical hazards, and psychological hazards. Below is a brief look at some of the risks by category, as well as ways to minimize the risks.
Biological risks hospice employees face include exposure to blood borne pathogens and infectious diseases. In many cases, exposure to biological risks are a result of needle stick injuries, coming into contact with a patient’s family member that has a contagious virus, or the employee’s failure to properly wash their hands after caring for the patient. To reduce these risks, only use needles when necessary and dispose of them properly, and make sure to use good hygiene at all times and avoid contact with those who may have a contagious illness.
Chemical hazards can include exposure to certain drugs, as well as chemicals used for cleaning and sterilization. In order to reduce the risk of exposure to harmful chemicals, employees should be properly trained on how to administer or use the chemical agent. This should include using protective face masks to avoid chemicals coming into contact with the eyes and respiratory system, which are often irritated by the fumes released by chemical agents.
The most common physical risk to healthcare providers like hospice employees are back injuries received while lifting or moving a patient. However, other physical risks include strained muscles and overexertion. Employees should be trained to use ergonomic approaches to transfer or provide aid to patients to prevent injury or use assistive devices, such as a lift or hoist, to support and balance patients when necessary.
Psychological hazards range from verbal and physical abuse to occupational stress caused by factors such as work overload, lack of support, or issues with co-workers, among others. As the CDC once shared, home healthcare providers like hospice employees often face more occupational stress than others due to the nature of their work. In order to reduce psychological risks like these, employees should be trained to recognize risks and implement an acceptable intervention for situations of violence or abuse. In the case of occupational stress, employers should provide employees the chance to discuss concerns openly and provide counseling support as needed.
Of course, hospice organizations should also minimize risk by having a strong insurance plan in place. Hospice organizations in need of insurance coverage can contact Lamb Financial Group to speak with a representative about your needs.