Career advice

Keeping community nurses safe from harm

Lone workers in community settings can be vulnerable to abuse. Dean Gurden looks at how to mitigate the risks and keep these people safe. 

Lone workers in community settings can be vulnerable to abuse. Dean Gurden looks at how to mitigate the risks and keep these people safe

Photo: Neil O'Connor

In 2015, an RCN survey of more than 1,300 nurses working in community-based roles found that 48% had been subjected to some form of abuse in the previous 2 years.

And almost one in ten respondents said they feel vulnerable some or all of the time.

So what can be done to mitigate the risks for lone workers in the community, and what policies and guidance exist to protect them?

Regulation and advice

The NHS lone worker guidance and the Health and Safety Executive’s ‘Working Alone’ leaflet both contain advice on how lone workers can keep healthy and safe. There are also numerous pieces of legislation that apply to community nurses, including the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

Nurses working in community settings should also make sure they know their organisation’s lone worker policy, advises Nick Simpson, chief executive of specialist healthcare recruiter MSI Group.

‘This will vary from trust to trust, but will provide valuable guidance on how to conduct home visits and support their case should any disputes arise,’ he says.

Keep informed

Nurses should ensure they look over any notes on the patient’s previous interactions with community staff, he adds, and be aware of any issues. Keeping a digital log on-site will ensure your account of the visit is documented accurately and help to keep other community nurses up to date on safety issues.

When visiting a patient in the community, a system should be in place to identify where you are at any given time. ‘This can be a communication board, or a system where you regularly check-in with your base of operations,’ says Simone Bedford, programme leader for pre-registration nursing at the University of Sunderland. ‘Most areas will also provide personal alarms, which should be carried at all times.’

Only take the items necessary to carrying out your duties when visiting a property, adds Ms Bedford, and leave all personal items locked in your car. You should also make sure you have directions to the residence before setting out on your journey, and ensure there is safe parking within adequate walking distance of the property.

 

Dos and don’ts of home visits

Do:
  • Check the patient’s record before your visit
  • Plan your visit – let people know where you are going and how long you expect to be there
  • Ensure your mobile phone is charged and check your signal
  • Carry your personal alarm and make sure it is working
  • Report ‘safe’ after your visit and at the end of the working day
  • Ensure you have received training on lone working and are familiar with local policies
  • Report any incidents that occur
Don’t
  • Visit a patient’s home without telling someone where you are going
  • Enter a patient’s home if you feel your safety will be compromised
  • Back yourself into a corner with no escape route

Source: Simone Bedford, programme leader for pre-registration nursing at the University of Sunderland

 


Dean Gurden is a freelance writer 

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