Home Healthcare: Do You Feel Safe at Work?

Updated: Sep 21

Home. Home is where everyone feels comfortable, at ease, and the safest. While patients love the idea of receiving care in the comforts of their own home, health care workers face a dilemma that comes with working in this territory.


Work environment


Home healthcare workers often face a work environment that is unpredictable and irregular each time they work in their patient’s home and communities. Home healthcare workers are at risk of psychological and physical harm because they often work alone, have very little support from their peers, and their work environment is not in their control. They may have to travel to dangerous neighbourhoods, deal with drug and alcohol abusers and family arguments.

Lack of safety during the pandemic


In the US, a few states required care workers to have paid leave when they tested positive for the virus, but workers in the home healthcare industry were left out. The absence of paid sick leave among home healthcare workers forces them to quickly work again, even though they have not fully recovered. This is extremely dangerous and increases the risk of spreading COVID-19 to their patients, our vulnerable population, and their co-workers. Many clinicians working in the homes of their patients see about 5 - 7 patients in a day. In Ontario, nurses and personal support workers typically visit 6 different patients and their respective homes in a day (Contenta, 2020). There is a risk of spreading the virus, as a nurse could walk into one of their patient’s homes after being in contact with the virus from their last patients.


Source/Attribution: Visual Capitalist

https://www.visualcapitalist.com/the-front-line-visualizing-the-occupations-with-the-highest-covid-19-risk/

Employee safety concerns in home healthcare


A survey conducted by the International Association for Healthcare Security and Safety (IAHSS) highlighted that “as many as 61% of home care nurses have experienced some form of workplace violence” (Lynch, 2017).

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics highlights that workers in the home care industry are twice as likely to get injured than the national workplace injury rate in all other industries (Marrelli & Rennell, 2020). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics also highlights that workers are 50% more likely to get injured in the home care work setting than in hospitals.


The Safe Home Care Project indicated that home healthcare workers are often more vulnerable to physical injuries, such as musculoskeletal injuries, like back pain due to lifting patients. Home care aides are the ones that help their patients get out and into their beds, support their patients while walking, and lack the proper equipment to do so.

Additionally, home healthcare workers are at risk of getting animal scratches and bites from their patient’s homes. Bites from animals can lead to an injury and even surgery.


In the US, a group of workers that are the most likely to receive a threat, verbal abuse, and sexual harassment are home care workers. Home healthcare workers deal with verbal abuse from their patients and their family. When patients are unhappy, they often take it out on the employee and often use unpleasant language.


When the patient or their loved ones becomes threatening and aggressive, it can lead to physical abuse. When violence does occur in the home, home care workers are forced to manage it on their own because their co-workers or manager is not there to help control the situation.


Patient safety concerns in home healthcare


Then there are the safety concerns for patients receiving home care, such as the lack of receiving consistent health monitoring, and environmental hazards in the home, like sanitation, and the control of infection. Due to the home setting, there is a lack of durable medical equipment, creating difficulties to help manage their patient's needs. Since healthcare is at home, it is less sterile than care in the hospital. For instance, drainage bags may be sterilized and then used again, a step that does not typically occur in the hospital. Home healthcare workers have reported instances of hoarding, animal attacks and excrement, food waste, which prevents the worker from creating a sterile work environment in the patient's home. With home healthcare, many patients and their families are at risk by inappropriately disposing of sharps, like needles, syringes, and lancets.


Additionally, medication mistakes are a safety concern for patients receiving care at home. A report indicated that an estimate of roughly 40% of patients receiving care at home experienced a mistake in their medication or a problem in drug therapy (Holly, 2018).


How we can help


Many home healthcare workers who have experienced some form of workplace violence will not report it to their managers or supervisors. Gaining feedback from home healthcare workers helps begin the process of creating a safe work environment. Not only does it help foster a safer environment, but workers feel that they are being heard and valued. To ensure that employees are safe and feel safe, one must listen to their needs, understand their risks, and take that information to create new policies.

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Surveys are a great way to deploy these questions to their employees. Pulse surveys are short, frequent surveys that can be tailored to specific topics to assess their change over time. Pulse surveys allow staff members to see the impact of their changes in real-time. The frequent nature of pulse surveys means the information management and staff member sees, will always be current.

Retainify is an employee engagement software that offers a unified solution that allows you to track employee sentiment and measure engagement in real-time. Proactively identify issues that are preventing them from being their best at work. Improve business outcomes by improving the employee experience, and enhance company culture one feedback at a time. Turn Feedback into Action.


Questions or Feedback?

Contact Us: hello@retainify.com



Citations:

  1. Chandrashekar, P., Moodley, S., & Jain, S. H. (2019, October 17). 5 Obstacles to Home-Based Health Care, and How to Overcome Them. Harvard Business Review. https://hbr.org/2019/10/5-obstacles-to-home-based-health-care-and-how-to-overcome-them

  2. Contenta, S. (2020, April 11). A young boy’s home-care needs highlight the dangers of spreading COVID-19. thestar.com. https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/04/11/a-young-boys-home-care-needs-highlight-the-dangers-of-spreading-covid-19.html

  3. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010, January). NIOSH Hazard Review: Occupational Hazards in Home Healthcare. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2010-125/default.html

  4. Dunne, J. (2019, May 9). How to Protect Home Health Workers from Social & Environmental Risks. HomeCare Magazine. https://www.homecaremag.com/may-2019/risk-management-safety-protocols

  5. FDA. (2018, August 30). Safely Using Sharps (Needles and Syringes) at Home, at Work and on Travel. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/consumer-products/safely-using-sharps-needles-and-syringes-home-work-and-travel

  6. Gandhi, T., Bonner, A., Muething, S., Lorincz, C., & McTiernan, P. (2019, March 20). As Home Care Expands, Let’s Make It Safer For Everyone. Health Affairs. https://www.healthaffairs.org/do/10.1377/hblog20190313.270650/full/

  7. Gershon, R. R. M., Pogorzelska, M., Qureshi, K. A., Stone, P. W., Canton, A. N., Samar, S. M., Westra, L. J., Damsky, M. R., & Sherman, M. (2008, August). Home health care patients and safety hazards in the home: Preliminary findings. Advances in Patient Safety: New Directions and Alternative Approaches (Vol. 1: Assessment). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK43619/

  8. Gleckman, H. (2020, April 16). Home Care Agencies And Workers Are The Next Ground Zero For COVID-19. Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardgleckman/2020/04/16/home-care-agencies-and-workers-are-the-next-ground-zero-for-covid-19/?sh=6b5a46036f05

  9. Holly, R. (2018, July 19). Health Care in the Home Still Raises Safety Concerns. Home Health Care News. https://homehealthcarenews.com/2018/07/health-care-in-the-home-still-raises-safety-concerns/

  10. Kinder, M. (2020, May 28). Essential but undervalued: Millions of health care workers aren't getting the pay or respect they deserve in the COVID-19 pandemic. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/research/essential-but-undervalued-millions-of-health-care-workers-arent-getting-the-pay-or-respect-they-deserve-in-the-covid-19-pandemic

  11. Lynch, J. P. (2017, August 22). Home care nurses at unique risk for workplace violence. Nurse.com Blog. https://www.nurse.com/blog/2017/08/22/home-care-nurses-at-unique-risk-for-workplace-violence/

  12. Malugani, M. (n.d.). Safety Tips for Home Healthcare Workers. Monster Career Advice. https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/safety-tips-for-home-health-workers

  13. ​​Marrelli, T. M., & Rennell, N. (2020, April 29). Home care safety. American Nurse. https://www.myamericannurse.com/home-care-safety/

  14. Oh, S. (2017, July 3). The future of work is the low-wage health care job. Vox. https://www.vox.com/2017/7/3/15872260/health-direct-care-jobs

  15. ​​Tran, M. (n.d.). Top 5 Safety Risks for Home Healthcare Workers. Ultra Risk Advisors. https://ultrariskadvisors.com/top-5-safety-risks-home-healthcare-workers-2/


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