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As a California nurse, your job, whether at a hospital, nursing home, doctor’s office or other health care facility, puts you at risk for an occupational injury. Not only do you care for patients with a variety of diseases, you also handle a number of potentially dangerous instruments, implements and pieces of medical equipment.

Unfortunately, you cannot prevent all nursing accidents, but you can prevent the following three injuries that represent the ones you face the highest risk of receiving:

  1. Sprains
  2. Cuts
  3. Burns

1. Sprains

Nurses suffer more back injuries than any other professional. Therefore, make sure you properly lift and support your patients, using your knees rather than putting all that strain on your back. The same goes for lifting and moving heavy medical equipment. Your hands, wrists and ankles likewise can take a beating over the course of your workday. Try to take frequent breaks during which you massage your hands. If you have not done so already, invest in a really good pair of sturdy shoes that give you not only excellent support, but also provide superior traction.

2. Cuts

The main problem with cuts, even such minor ones as paper cuts, is that they become infected easily, especially considering that you constantly work in environments where bacteria and viruses live and breed. It goes without saying that frequent hand washing is a must, especially after coming into contact with each of your patients.

Whenever you receive a cut from a knife or scissors, or a “stick” from a syringe, wash the affected area immediately with an antiseptic soap, apply an antiseptic ointment and bandage the wound. If the object that cut you was anywhere close to a hazardous substance or material, seek immediate medical attention.

3. Burns

Be particularly careful when working around such common nursing equipment as autoclaves and sterilizers. You can easily burn yourself by even the most momentary contact with their extremely hot surfaces. In addition, test the temperature of water and other liquids before using them.

Should you receive a minor burn, improvise an ice pack to put on it and relieve the pain. Afterward, apply an antiseptic ointment and bandage. As a nurse, you undoubtedly know the difference between first-, second- and third-degree burns. If you sustain either of the latter two, seek immediate emergency medical help.

In your passion for helping your patients, never forget to take care of yourself as well. A little forethought, carefulness and planning on your part can go a long way toward preventing the injuries to which you are most susceptible.