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Nurses, hospital staff need compassion too

Nurses and other hospital staff do end up being victims too. — MIMS

I injured my thumb several weeks ago and have been undergoing regular physiotherapy sessions.

During my last visit to the hospital, I was joined by a nurse, in her 30s, who works at the same hospital. She underwent a surgery to correct carpal tunnel syndrome recently.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is common among nurses.

Carpal tunnel syndrome
- involves the compression of the median nerve and leads to pain, numbness or weakness of the wrist and hand.
- Women are three times more likely than men to have the condition.
- In 2010, about eight out of every 100,000 full time hospital workers had work-related carpal tunnel syndrome that was severe enough to require days away from work, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

A research titled 'Occupational risk factors for carpal tunnel syndrome among nurses in medical' by UKM's Anuar Ithnin, Dinnee Kong and Saraswathy Venkataraman, published in the International Journal of Public Health Research in 2012, concluded:

"It is important to the nursing department to review the ergonomic and work flow in the ward in order to improve the working environment and benefit of similar early preventive measures to nurses."

Nurses also face another challenge — they make up the largest number of hospital staff involved in accidents related to commuting.

This letter from National Institute of Occupational Safety Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye explains further:

According to the Health Ministry's Director General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, 623 accidents involving healthcare personnel were recorded between 2014 and last year as reported in the media.
Out of the total, 554 cases were accidents related to commuting, when the victims were travelling to or from their workplaces.
Of the 554 victims, 12.5 per cent or 69  comprised those who were on duty after normal office hours  between 5pm and 8am.
Nurses made up the biggest number of hospital staff. The Health Ministry's data shows that out of the 554 victims, more than half or 295, were nurses.
Among the causes of commuting accidents were  chronic fatique, sleep deprivation, road conditions and weather.
Road accidents are actually the leading cause of work-related injuries and deaths with commuting accidents making up a significant percentage of industrial accidents reported to the Social Security Organisation (SOCSO) yearly
Based on SOCSO’s statistics, the number of commuting accidents had steadily increased from 22,036 cases in 2010 to 24,089 cases (2011); 26,256 cases (2012); 27,659 cases (2013), 28,037 cases (2014) and 28,579 cases (2015).
The statistics  show that the number of commuting accidents has increased almost 30 per cent in just six years, which is very alarming.
I agree with Dr Noor Hisham's advice that motorists and riders, including healthcare personnel, should not take to the road if they feel tired or sleepy to avoid road accidents.
He was quoted saying that being fatigued significantly increases the risk of a crash as it makes drivers less aware of what’s happening on the road and impairs their ability to respond quickly and safely if a dangerous situation arises.
As for healthcare personnel, hospital managers and department heads should be more sensitive towards their wellbeing and if possible, refrain from giving them double shifts or long hours without break.
We need a collective effort to prevent more loss of lives among doctors and other health workers as reported before.
On May 9 for example, Dr Nurul Huda Ahmad, a paediatrician in training, was involved in an accident in Kuala Terengganu after nearly 33 hours on duty while in 2015, anaesthesiologist Dr Afifah Mohd Ghazi, 27, died in a road accident in Sungai Buloh, Selangor, while returning home from the Sungai Buloh Hospital.
I hope that the Health Ministry could provide suitable facilities for its staff to rest while more flexibility should be given to health personnel to take a break, depending on the needs of the hospital.
If possible, allow them to rest or take a nap for a while before continuing with their next shift or travelling home.
To help reduce commuting accidents among healthcare personnel, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health  (NIOSH) is more than willing to work together with the Health Ministry and other relevant agencies and non-governmental organisations to find the best solutions.
Among others, more awareness campaigns should be held for healthcare personnel apart from creating a conducive working environment for them.
As the employer, the Health Ministry has a duty to protect its medical and other personnel from road accidents by managing their occupational road risk.
In this connection, NIOSH could help the ministry develop and implement comprehensive safety procedures and training programmes to help their employees become competent drivers and riders as well as enhance their awareness on road safety.
NIOSH could also help the ministry establish a written policy that ensure their workers to undergo safe and defensive driving and riding courses, including the proper use of safety features and driving within speed limit and not using their handphones while driving or riding.

And it's best to address these issues quickly as the country is set to face a nursing shortage by 2020. Read full report here.

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