Report: Nurses at High Risk of Becoming Patients Due to Work Injury

Nurses by trade are healers. And yet, when it comes to their own health, it’s apparent workplaces aren’t doing enough to prevent serious injury.
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New figures released by the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates nurses have some of the highest work injury rates in the country. There are an estimated 35,000 back injuries reported among nurses every year that are severe enough they must miss work.

While we tend to think of construction workers as having the most dangerous jobs, consider this: Nursing assistants and orderlies each are three times more likely to suffer musculoskeletal and back injuries than those who work in construction.

In terms of the total number of injuries, federal data reveals that per occupation, those with the highest number are:

  1. Nursing assistance
  2. Warehouse workers
  3. Truckers
  4. Stock clerks
  5. Registered nurses

The greatest danger among those in the health profession? Patient lifting and moving.

Our Spartanburg hospital worker injury lawyers know for years, those in the medical field have been advising students and hospital staffers to lift patients is by bending at the knees and keeping one’s back straight. But in fact, new research indicates this method is unsafe. According to a study author, director of The Ohio State University’s Spine Research Institute, there is in fact no way to safely lift a patient manually. The force on the spine is so great, back problems are all but inevitable, no matter how closely workers adhere to the so-called “proper body mechanics.”

There are currently only a handful of hospitals that have reported a reduction in lift-related injuries by staff nurses (up to 80 percent, in some cases) by employing a “safe patient handling” approach. This involves using machines – specifically, motorized hoists – to lift and move patients.

But this only accounts for a small percentage of all hospitals. Several nurse advocates argue hospitals tend to view nurses as a “disposable labor force” and therefore do not make their safety a high priority – an allegation hospital administrators deny. And yet, these types of injuries continue to happen.

In some cases, injuries occur early on in one’s career, and may cause a person to completely change occupations.

A study in the early 1990s revealed that while the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health barred factory workers (typically large, healthy men) from lifting more than 35 pounds in the course of their work, nursing employees were routinely asked to lift patients far heavier than that a dozen times a day or more. In some cases, the resulting injuries are career-ending.

Exacerbating the situation is that patients are often far sicker – and heavier – than they were even 20 years ago. Hospitals are more frequently treating more patients in outpatient centers, so those who are treated as inpatient need 24/7 care. That puts greater lifting demands on nurses.

The American Nurses Association reports so far 10 states have adopted a comprehensive program in health care facilities specifically designed to protect nursing staff at hospitals. However, neither North Carolina or South Carolina are among those.

If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Hospitals Fail to Protect Nursing Staff From Becoming Patients, Feb. 4, 2015, By Daniel Zwerdling,

More Blog Entries:
Average Salaries for the Most Dangerous U.S. Jobs, Oct. 31, 2014, Spartanburg Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog

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