Healthcare is the largest industry in the American economy and includes public and private hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, offices of physicians, dentists and other licensed practitioners, home healthcare services, outpatient care centers and other ambulatory healthcare services and medical and diagnostic laboratories. Occupations within medical offices and healthcare facilities are plenty and varied; their rate of growth remains rapid and above average.
The list of jobs that are essential to the medical field and healthcare industry is long:
- dental hygienists
- nurses (RN, LPN, LVN)
- physician’s assistants
- social workers
- physical therapists
- medical records
- health information technicians
- clinical laboratory technologists
- diagnostic-related technicians
- emergency medical technicians
- ambulance drivers
- nursing aides
- home health aides
- orderlies and attendants
- occupational therapists
- speech-language pathologists
- medical assistants
- personal and home care aides
- medical transcriptionists
- custodial and food service workers
and those functioning in either management or administrative support roles for clinicians who provide direct services.
Many of these occupations, including nursing and medical assisting, often involve potential exposure to airborne and bloodborne infectious disease, needle stick and sharps injuries, back injuries, latex allergy, stress and other dangers. Some are at risk for occupational exposure to a variety of hazardous chemicals and situations that can be physically demanding and stressful; being aware of the potential hazards in the work environment makes them less vulnerable to injury. Past reports issued by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that musculoskeletal injuries were the most common type of non-fatal injury or illness for nursing, psychiatric and home health aides who represent nearly two-thirds of all healthcare support occupations.
To safely and efficiently perform work related duties the healthcare worker must be able to physically and mentally satisfy the requisite skills and be able to perform required job related duties with or without a reasonable accommodation. Essential functions which the healthcare worker must be able to perform are based on factors such as education and job-related work experience, the reason for the position, the number of other employees available to perform the same duties or among whom the function can be shared and the degree of expertise or skill required to perform the duties.
Many healthcare establishments operate around the clock and need staff at all hours. Shift work is common in some of the above mentioned occupations. It is not uncommon for healthcare workers hold more than one part-time job, of which each one comes with unique challenges and health hazards. Healthcare workers, especially nurses, clinical laboratory workers and medical assistants, face unique situations at work of which some may pose safety concerns. Medical office and healthcare facility workplace settings typically involve direct patient care with invasive procedures, exposure to body fluids, handling bio-hazardous materials in a fast-paced setting. Errors and oversights due to the demanding nature of duties may result in health or safety consequences.