Nurses who work alone in the community have been issued new guidance by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) to preserve their safety and wellbeing.
The guidance, Keeping safe when working alone, states that community nurses should be conscious that some patients or surroundings may pose a risk to their safety. They should be equipped with personal safety alarms, regularly check in with colleagues and report any incident that takes place.
‘Nursing staff who work alone for long or even short periods of time are more vulnerable to physical and verbal abuse,’ said Kim Sunley, senior employment relations advisor for the RCN. ‘As more care is provided in the community, the number of nursing staff working alone will inevitably increase.’
The guidance was developed in response to a 2015 survey. This found that 50% of staff felt vulnerable at work, with almost 10% feeling vulnerable often or all of the time, leading to concerns about their stress levels and a serious risk of burnout. Only 22% said that their managers knew where they were when they were working alone in the community. It also found that nearly half of nursing staff based in the community have been subjected to abuse during the last two years. In more than 11% of cases, this involved physical abuse or assault as well as verbal abuse.
‘Employers are bound by law to take appropriate measures to protect the safety of their employees, and nursing staff can also take practical steps to reduce risk,’ added Ms Sunley. ‘These include following a safe system of work, by using personal safety alarms, accessing your surroundings and using de-escalation techniques. The new guidance aims to support nursing staff and their employers to ensure that everyone is as safe as possible while carrying out their vital work.’