Safety is a fundamental concern of all nurses. From bedside to the community, nurses see to it that accidents and injuries are prevented. From a simple act of reminding patients to call them whenever they need assistance to preparing emergency equipment, nurses demonstrate the act of being protectors of patients under their care.
Despite nurses’ attentiveness, accidents cannot be totally avoided. Part of nurses’ responsibilities is to assist those who have been injured due to vehicle accidents, drowning, fires, and poisoning. There is a great need for nurses to have a high awareness of the elements of a safe environment. Moreover, accidents are usually caused by human conduct. Thus, accidents can be prevented.
Here is a guide to promoting safety measures throughout the lifespan:
Newborns and Infants
The first year of life is prone to accidents. It is not surprising that accidents are the leading cause of death in infants. Being dependent on others for care and them being oblivious to hints of danger make them vulnerable to injuries.
Common accidents during infancy include burns, choking and suffocation, falls, and poisoning. Here’s how nurses and parents alike can promote a safe environment for newborns and infants:
- Use a federally approved car seat at all times. It should be in the back seat, facing backward.
- Never leave the infant unattended on a raised surface.
- Check the temperature of the baby’s bath water and formula prior to using.
- Hold the infants upright during feeding. Do not prop the bottle. Cut food into small pieces, and do not feed the infants peanuts or popcorn.
- Provide large soft toys with no small detachable or sharp-edged parts.
- Cover electric outlets. Coil cords out of reach.
- Place plants, household cleaners, and wastebaskets out of reach. Lock away potential poisons (e.g. medicines, paints, and gasoline).
Toddlerhood is years of curiosity. Therefore, toddlers would feel and taste anything that catches their fancy. Nurses that work closely with toddlers and parents who are raising one know all too well that these children need constant supervision and protection. They are experiencing the world and are usually fascinated by pools and busy streets, two of which are just some of the potential dangers lurking in the corner.
Here are some ways that can promote safety to toddlers:
- Continue using federally approved car seats at all times. Place children in the back seat when traveling in a car.
- Teach children not to put things in the mouth, including pills (unless given by parent).
- Keep objects with sharp edges (e.g., furniture, knives) out of children’s reach.
- Place hot pots on back burners with handles turned inward.
- Keep cleaning solutions, insecticides, and medicines in locked cupboards.
- Supervise toddlers in the tub.
- Obtain a low-lying bed when the child begins to climb.
- Cover outlets with safety covers or plugs.
Children in this age are unusually active but are often very clumsy. This is the perfect age for safety education (e.g. crossing the streets, meaning of traffic signals, riding bicycles). Careful surveillance must continue because preschoolers are still not self-reliant in matters of safety. Their cognitive and motor skills increase quickly so safety measures should keep up with the acquisition of new skills.
Here are the safety measures for children in this stage:
- Do not allow children to run with candy or other objects in the mouth.
- Teach children not to put small objects in the mouth, nose, and ears.
- Remove doors from unused equipment such as refrigerators.
- Always supervise preschoolers in crossing streets and begin safety teaching about obeying traffic signals and looking both ways.
- Teach children to play in safe areas. Teach them about the dangers of playing with matches and playing near charcoal, fire, and heating appliances.
- Teach children to avoid strangers and keep parents informed of their whereabouts.
- Teach preschoolers not to walk in front of swings and not to push others off playground equipment.
Children at this stage now think before they act. They are sensitive to peer pressure, but school-age children respond to rules. They like fantasy and magical thinking and are usually known for imitating adult actions. They are especially prone to injuries caused by outdoor activities and recreational equipment.
One can promote safety for school-age children by sharing this bulleted list:
- Teach safety rules for recreational and sports activities (e.g., never swim alone, wearing a life jacket in a boat, and wearing a helmet and protective pads as needed).
- Supervise contact sports and activities in which children aim at a target.
- Teach children safe ways to use a stove, garden tools, and other equipment.
- Teach children not to play with fireworks, gunpowder, or firearms.
- Teach the children the health hazards of smoking. If you smoke, stop.
- Teach children the effects of drugs and alcohol on judgment and coordination.
Teenager’s level of responsibility, common sense, and ability to resist peer pressure should be assessed. This is also the time when some can obtain their driver’s license. Other than that, sports injuries, suicide, and homicide are just some of safety threats nurses and parents should be concerned when dealing with adolescents.
Here are safety measures for adolescents:
- Have adolescents complete a driver’s education course, and take practice drives with them in various kinds of weather.
- Set firm limits on automobile use (e.g., never drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol).
- Encourage the use of proper equipment when participating in sports.
- Teach safety measures for use of power tools.
- Inform adolescents of the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex. Include teaching about date rape prevention and defense.
- Watch out for mood and behavior changes of this age group. It is important to maintain open communication with adolescents.
- Set a good example of behavior that the adolescent can follow.
This age group is especially at risk for vehicle accidents, suicide, and exposure to natural radiation, drowning, and firearms. The nurse can foster safety by remembering these things:
- Reinforce motor vehicle safety.
- Remind to repair potential fire hazards, such as electrical wiring.
- Discuss evaluating the possibility of workplace injuries or death while making career decisions.
- Discuss avoiding excessive sun radiation.
- Encourage those who are unable to cope to seek counseling.
The injury rate of middle-aged adults are affected by changing physiologic factors and personal and work-related responsibilities. Here’s how nurses can help them protect themselves:
- Reinforce motor vehicle safety.
- Make certain stairways are well lighted and uncluttered.
- Equip bathrooms with hand grasps and non-skid bath mats.
- Test smoke detectors and fire alarms regularly.
- Follow safety precautions when using machinery.
One of the major concerns in taking care of elders is injury prevention. They are particularly at risk for accidents and injuries because of their limited vision, slow reflexes, and brittle bones. Simple activities like climbing stairs and driving a car would require a lot from them. They have failing memories and are often prone to wandering.
Nurses can make elders have a safe home environment through these reminders:
- Ensure eyeglasses are functional.
- Ensure appropriate lighting.
- Keep environment tidy and uncluttered.
- Mark doorways and edges of steps as needed.
- Wear shoes or well-fitted slippers with non-skid soles.
- Provide assistance with ambulation as needed.
- Monitor gait and balance as well as activity tolerance. Also, monitor orientation and alertness status.
- Keep bed in a low position.
- Install grab bars in bathroom. Provide raised toilet seat.
- Encourage annual or more frequent review of all medications prescribed.
Help prevent accidents and injuries by instilling safety measures to people. Start influencing their health attitudes towards safety by sharing this guide!