Professional risk factors of health care workers: classification, prevalence and prevention

Kristina Pugačiauskaitė1

1Faculty of Medicine, Vilnius University, Vilnius, Lithuania


Professional risk factors are highly prevalent in daily clinical practice. Some of them are more common among particular occupations and depend on the specialization of the physician as well as the infrastructure of a hospital. Risk factors that healthcare workers are exposed to are classified into 6 broad categories: biological, psychosocial, chemical, ergonomic, physical and traumatic. The most prominent biological risk factor is exposure to potentially contaminated body fluids that could lead to viral infections. Burnout syndrome is a psychosocial disorder may be caused by constant stress experienced in the hospital. Chemical risk factors are relatively rare, most often affecting nursing personnel and triggering long-term allergies or skin reactions. Ergonomic problems have huge impact on surgeons‘ health as a result of inconvenient positions during surgeries. Physical risk factors involve radiation damage inflicted during radiologic procedures, however, rarely do the radiation doses exceed normal limits. Various traumatic events (e.g. careless use of needles) are thought to be associated with both mental and physical exhaustion as well as hectic schedules. All risk factors, regardless of the type, can contribute to health problems. However, they can be avoided if preventative measures are implemented.

Keywords: professional risk factors, physician, health, hospital environment, prevention.