1. Anthony, Maureen PhD, RN

Article Content

Home care clinicians face unique threats to personal safety compared to their colleagues in institutional settings. Typically, home care clinicians make solo visits, sometimes in high-crime neighborhoods or in homes where illicit drug use is known to occur. Each home is a unique environment over which the clinician has little control. Aggressive pets, firearms, and electrical hazards are a few examples of potential safety threats. Even driving from one patient home to the next creates risk of auto accidents or car breakdowns in isolated or high-crime areas. Authors Elizabeth Nix and Kacie Alton of Arkansas State University set out to record the experiences of home care and home hospice nurses. Their article Safety Concerns Associated with Home Care Nursing appears in this issue. The results probably won't surprise you. Of the 75 nurses who participated, 59 felt unsafe during a visit. Alarmingly, six of those respondents were threatened by a firearm and six were threatened by angry family members. Other experiences included sexual harassment, aggressive dogs, bed bugs, and drug-seeking family members.

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I can commiserate with these nurses. I also felt unsafe at times while working as a home care nurse. Knowing how important pets are to patients (and being a dog lover myself), I never asked that pets be restricted to another room during my visits. That changed when a dog lunged and bit my leg as I walked in the door. Eight stiches later, I learned the hard way to insist that dogs be confined to another room before I enter the home. In another instance, I visited a patient who lived in one of several apartments over an empty storefront. The patient and his roommate were inebriated, and the apartment was at the end of a hallway with no easy exit. Fortunately, my supervisor agreed that future visits to this patient would be conducted with an escort. And I'll never forget the colleague who made a quick exit when the patient complained that his son's poisonous snakes were loose in the house!


How safe do you feel as a home care provider making home visits? Have you had the experience of feeling unsafe during a visit? Does your agency make worker safety a priority? Do you feel your concerns are heard? I would love to hear from you. Email me at mailto:[email protected].

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