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Duty of Care in the Health Care Setting

Eileen, one of our delightful Safety Concepts Readers (and quite a character – I should add), now retired from the Nursing Industry is an Author with a passion for history. Eileen shares the importance of Duty of Care in the Health Care Industry. Thank you Eileen.

Working in the Health Care System for many years one cannot emphasize enough the importance of being alert to risks and potential hazards which can be seen to arise in the workplace and if not reported and remedied may cause serious injury or death.

It is not enough to look around your own workplace to ensure that the client you are treating and yourself are not at risk because of someone’s negligence, although that alertness is mandatory when caring for a client. Careful observation of the workplace as a whole may spot a potential hazard which must be eliminated. A safe workplace is essential in the Health Care System, a Duty of Care for those clients depending on staff for treatment makes ensuring that safety vital, but that care also extends to visitors and contractors coming into the building.

There are many things which may cause people to forget that Duty of Care to others when at work. Shortage of staff sometimes make people take short cuts, the work load may be too heavy that causes this, but these short cuts can cause someone serious injury and may mean the end of their working life. In my capacity as Night Supervisor I became aware of staff overfilling the laundry bags during the heavy morning round of showers and bed making. This lack of thinking of someone else’s risk by having to lift those extremely heavy laundry bags was dangerous and had to be stopped before anyone was injured.

Often people think that their job description does not include cleaning up spills, removing wheel chairs and trolleys from fire doors, and removing hazardous electrical appliances and reporting them. But they are wrong. That is the basis of their job description, to ensure a safe workplace where no one can be injured through negligence.

Working as I did in the Health Care Industry, I was able to see the results of failing in Duty of Care to staff.  A nurse I knew who had had some minor back problems treated by an Orthopaedic Specialist, was working in Obstetrics in the nurseries. The specialist had told the nurse that should she be rostered in Orthopaedics in the future to let the nursing administration know that because orthopaedic lifting was heavier than most specialities, she should be rostered elsewhere. Everything went well until she found herself rostered in orthopaedics. She did let administration know about her condition but was told by someone in the office that the rosters had already been made out and they would try and change her next roster.

Two weeks later when lifting a patient in traction with another nurse, the patient suddenly moved against their lifting and the damage was done. The nurse had three major back operations and her nursing life was finished.

Everyone should watch out for dangers, not only to themselves or the clients they are caring for, but for each other. We have a Duty of Care to the people receiving our care, but we also have a Duty of Care for each other. If you are looking for a nationally recognised course on how to comply with new OHS laws my friends at Safety Concepts offer an online course called OHS Consultation in the Workplace. You can complete this qualification completely online with no classroom or lectures to attend.

About the Author

Safety Concepts is an online resource providing up to date insights and covering issues in the field of Workplace Safety.

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