Home healthcare done right


iStock | Alexander RathsiStock | Alexander Raths

Home is where the heart is. But if you’re a home healthcare nurse, it can be where the hurt is, too. That’s because as soon as you step out of the hospital and into a patient’s home, you’re stepping away from many of the policies, not to mention equipment, put in place to ensure your safety.

The trade-off? An unpredictable, uncontrollable work environment with its own unique set of safety hazards, such as unsanitary or dangerous conditions or aggressive animals.

So, to help you navigate the potentially troubled waters of at-home care without injury, we’ve gathered a few safety precautions. Be sure to make a habit of them.

 1. The “to and fro”

  • Research the location prior to making your first visit. Check and double-check that your directions are accurate. Having a second point of contact is wise should you get lost.
  • Ask about any household pets. Acquire as much information as possible with regard to shots, as well as a history of hostility.
  • Inform your employer or a colleague of your location as well as your estimated return time. Is your phone fully charged? We’re not talking 50 percent here.
  • Make sure your vehicle has the amount of gas it needs to make a round trip.
  • Use common sense—park in well-lit, public spaces. Prepare the tools and resources you’ll need in advance to shorten amount of time you spend alone outside, and always store medical supplies out of view.
  • Carry a flashlight should you have to make the trek to your car during evening hours.
  • Avoid wearing expensive items, and as always—be sure to wear sensible shoes.

2. You’re in—now what?

  • No matter the patient, assess the environment. Look for signs of substance abuse or visible weapons.
  • Be aware of your surroundings—know where to find an exit in a pinch.
  • Do not ignore potential hazards. These include, but are not limited to, insects or vermin, cigarette smoke, irritating chemicals, extreme temperatures, unsanitary conditions, neighborhood violence or clutter. Document and report any conditions you deem unsafe to your employer.
  • Keep that fully charged cellphone of yours in your pocket. Not in a purse, and definitely not in your car.
  • Always utilize proper form when lifting patients or heavy household items. If the patient or item is simply too weighty, don’t attempt any maneuvers alone. If you anticipate a need for a mechanical lifting device, don’t hesitate to request one.
  • Speaking of heavy objects, remember to push instead of pull whenever possible. Especially if the object is in excess of 50 pounds.
  • Always keep backup personal protective wear, like gloves or masks, in your travel bag.

3. General tips

  • Consider whether or not you’d feel safer if you were to provide care in pairs of two. Determine if the buddy system is an option.
  • Whenever possible, try to schedule your visits during the day.
  • Sign up for a self-defense course so that you are better prepared to respond to violent situations.
  • Always, always keep your ID on your person.

Do you provide home healthcare? What are your primary concerns? Share them with us in the comments section below.

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