As a CNA there will most likely come a day when you will be placed in a dangerous situation. The threat of a disaster or emergent situation is there for all of us. It is no different in the healthcare setting where we bear the additional responsibility for the welfare of our patients. All the more reason we must prepare ourselves in advance for potential emergencies. Patients with behavioral problems, weather and fire emergencies, exposure to toxic substances, and potential injury due to the physical demands of the job are just a few of the issues you may encounter as a CNA. These situations share one thing in common: preparedness can limit, even prevent injuries and death.
When you begin any new job, you will most likely go through a period of orientation. They may ask you to read manuals and policies regarding safety and disaster plans. Will you remember everything from those first days? Probably not. Many new employees put this information out of their minds after that first day. But talk with those healthcare workers affected by hurricane Katrina or the recent tornados in Mississippi and Missouri. Ask if they wish they’d been more prepared and you are likely to hear a resounding “yes!” Once the water begins to rise and the roof starts coming off, it’s simply too late! You can best prepare yourself for the unthinkable by reviewing the disaster manual until you can quote these emergency protocols word for word.
Just as preparation can prevent injuries and save lives during a disaster, a personal safety plan can protect you against a threat as an individual. What would you do if confronted with an agitated patient or visitor? How can you protect yourself from exposure to blood borne diseases? Do you know what to do if you are exposed to a toxic chemical? Do you know how to respond when a resident begins to fall while you are assisting them? Becoming familiar with your facility policies is critical, but can help only if you’ve done so prior to a threat. Sound strategies for protecting yourself include:
- paying attention to your surroundings
- using caution when working with needles or sharps
- practicing universal precautions when handling body fluids
- working with another staff member
- walking away from threatening patients, visitors or staff members
- reporting the first sign of a threatening situation to your supervisor
- learning safe resident handling techniques from your trainer or physical therapist
Emergent situations don’t happen every day, thank goodness, but knowing what to do when the need arises will help you remain calm under pressure. Prepare yourself today!
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