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What are the Risks of Careers in Healthcare?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2017
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Virtually all careers in health care carry some element of risk to health. Some of these risks are fairly easy to identify, like long-term exposure to X-rays, or to communicable illnesses. Those who pursue careers in health care also face other risks.

Almost all careers in health care put people into daily contact with latex, through gloves and other latex equipment. Those with careers in health care are at a greatly increased risk for developing allergies to latex, which can be challenging to one in the health care field. If one develops latex allergies, significant modifications must be made in behavior to eliminate risk for those with allergies.

Latex allergies can cause anaphylactic shock and extreme respiratory problems. Since so many things in hospitals contain latex, those with careers in health care may need to change jobs to limit exposure. Alternately, they need to wear non-latex gloves and not work with patients who may have latex bandages or tubing to avoid health risk.

Careers in health care also hold a greater threat of violence upon one’s person. Particularly workers in psychiatric hospitals, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), may find themselves in situations where violence could occur. Imagine being an EMT and having to pick up people injured in a rioting crowd. It is possible to get injured on the job by other people, or by patients that are violent due to drug use or brain dysfunction.

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In psychiatric hospitals, careers in health care also carry a higher risk for minor to major physical injury. Some patients under severe distress can lash out at workers and may need to be restrained for their own safety. This restraining process could mean a black eye or a few scratches. It could also be as bad as a concussion if a patient is violent.

All careers in health care increase risk of contracting incurable diseases, through exposure to patients’ body fluids. The most frequently occurring risk is exposure to Hepatitis B and to HIV by being stuck with an infected needle. Often a stick with an infected needle does not result in contraction of a disease. However, there have been some cases of transmission of disease in this manner.

Greater protection is ensured by proper disposal of needles and by using great precaution when treating wounds or handling body fluids of patients. Gloving up and washing the hands are two of the greatest means of prevention.

These methods will not protect those with careers in health care who are exposed to serious airborne illnesses like Legionnaires Disease or Tuberculosis. Analysts also worry about risk to those with careers in health care if a country came under attack through germ warfare. Significant analysis has been done since the attacks on 9/11 to examine how capable our US medical system would be if it had to treat an unprecedented number of cases of small pox or anthrax.

Those with careers in health care make up the front line protecting people from disease, and for this reason, are most at risk. Though many with careers in health care have received vaccinations for small pox, a risky vaccination in itself, some airborne diseases could harm health care workers as much as patients, creating a disastrous medical emergency.

Minor risks for those with careers in health care include exposure to airborne illnesses and greater levels of bacteria that can be harmful but not life threatening. Health care workers, especially in their first year or two, may find themselves coming down with more colds, viruses and infections than they would if they worked in other fields. Thorough handwashing remains an excellent preventative tool, since minor illnesses are not at all uncommon in those with careers in health care.

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