Safety in the Walk-in Clinic: Consistent Consciousness

July 31st 2016
Jeannette Y Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
Jeannette Y Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP

Amid the many issues retail health providers must juggle, it’s easy to forget to focus on a critical task: safety.

Amid the many issues retail health providers must juggle, it’s easy to forget to focus on a critical task: safety.

In most cases, when serious accidents and incidents occur, employees either skipped a step in a safety protocol, cut corners, or ignored their clinical intuition,

No one intentionally sets out to injure themselves or others, damage essential equipment, or become the victim of theft or workplace violence. Nevertheless, a casual approach to safety increases the likelihood these things will occur.

Here are a few ways to promote consistent consciousness and safety in your clinic:

1. Good Housekeeping

First, let’s consider preventable accidents in retail health. Housekeeping at work means filing paperwork promptly, removing clutter, and cleaning spills correctly. Storing frequently used items within reach, locking drawers that contain needles or prescription pads, and using safe ladders to retrieve items from high storage are also important tasks.

Good housekeeping is most important with regard tosharps. Retail health care providers need to know how to use the built-in protection on the needles they use and follow manufacturer directions completely. Many sharps devices aren’t intuitively designed. If you switch brands, be sure to read the new product's directions.

Once a needle is used, it should be dropped it directly into a sharps container. Once those containers are full, remove and dispose of the container appropriately. Overfilling sharps containers increases the likelihood that a health care provider or other staff will accidently incur a needlestick.

Many health care providers use a clean-as-you go approach to housekeeping. They situate trash cans and sharps containers so they can deposit waste and needles immediately after use—eliminating the need to handle trash and dirty needles twice. They also place cleaning supplies close to work areas for use throughout the day.

At the end of the day, many providers also use a checklist to ensure all housekeeping has been done and all equipment is either turned off, or running appropriately (eg, the refrigerator is at the correct temperature).

2. Stranger Danger

One of retail health care’s benefits is accessibility. Many clinics are open long hours and always placed throughout the community. Unfortunately, this accessibility creates an environment where theft and workplace violence are possible. Retail clinics are co-located with pharmacies, and health providers may handle cash payments.

Additionally, nurse practitioners and physicians assistants may attempt to care for patients who are angry, frustrated, or addicted. These patients can sometimes become aggressive or violent. Retail clinicians should endeavor to always be aware of their patients’ emotional status.

To foster workplace safety, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has prepared “Recommendations for Workplace Violence Prevention Programs in Late-Night Retail Establishments.” If you’re worried, ask the security officer to stay close, or have a coworker help you.

Every workplace needs to emphasize these key points:

· Have an emergency plan and know how to use it. Schedule periodic safety drills to prepare and practice.

· Simple techniques are often the most important when it comes to safety: locking doors and keeping them locked; installing good lighting; intervening in situations early; identifying hazards routinely and fixing them; listening to employees and patients.

· Know your surroundings, including the front and back ends of the store, the parking lots, and where lights are brightest.

· Many retail locations have security staff in place. Develop good relationships with these colleagues—know them by name, treat them with respect, and talk to them about patients or situations that feel risky to you.

· If you suspect a patient is dangerous, take appropriate action without hesitation. Leave the room if you feel threatened, and get help immediately. If a patient’s behavior warrants calling the police, do it. We don't do society any favors by ignoring bullies’ antics.

· Don't be a hero. When confronted by an armed robber, what should you do? The correct answer: Anything he or she tells you to do. But, be a good witness. Try to remember everything you can about the thief (race, sex, height and body build, apparel, predominant hand, distinguishing marks, and piercings)

Clinic staff can also take many preventive measures:

· Follow the news, and be aware of episodes of violence or robbery in your area

· Encourage management to install cameras at eye-level, so they capture patients’ faces

· Put height markers in the clinic in highly visible places

· Invite the police into your clinic to assess safety and make recommendations. Do this routinely every 6 to 12 months

Managing safety in the workplace is required by law, and managers can be held personally responsible for any failure to manage health and safety.

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