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Global Occupational Health$
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Tee L. Guidotti

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195380002

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195380002.001.0001

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Health-Care Workers

Health-Care Workers

(p.397) 20 Health-Care Workers
Global Occupational Health

Tee L. Guidotti

Oxford University Press

Health care workers are exposed to many hazards on the job. Hospitals and clinics are considered to be high-risk workplaces because of the many hazards. The characteristic hazards in health care facilities are biological, related mostly to the diseases of the patients. Some of these pathogens can be transmitted through droplets in the air, such as tuberculosis. Others may be transmitted from exposure to human blood or other body fluids, such as hepatitis and HIV/AIDS, particularly by sharp objects. A few pathogens are chiefly of concern because the health care providers and staff might transmit them to a patient, such as rubella and staphylococcus infections. Many more pathogens are of concern in the care of patients who have suppressed immune systems and so cannot easily fight off many infections that normally would not be transmitted from person to person. There are many chemical hazards in health care institutions, which can be handled safely but care must be taken. Overuse of often poor-quality latex gloves has created a serious problem with latex allergy that occasionally forces nurses, especially, to leave the profession. Health care facilities are also full of safety hazards. Needlestick injuries are still very common and carry the risk of transmitting bloodborne pathogens, despite modern methods of ensuring safe disposal of sharp instruments. Electrical hazards are common in hospitals because of the equipment. Violence is a common problem in hospitals, particularly in psychiatric wards and in the emergency department. Stress is a constant problem in health care work, compounded by shiftwork schedules.

Keywords:   healthcare workers, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, rubella, staphylococcus, patient safety, needlestick injury, bloodborne pathogens, latex, stress, shiftwork

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