Back injuries common complaint among health care workers

North Carolina residents may be surprised to hear that the very nurses and aides employed to help overweight patients may end up in the hospital themselves as a result of a workplace injury sustained while lifting patients.

According to a 2011 survey by the American Nurses Association, 62 percent of nurses are concerned about sustaining disabling workplace injuries from lifting, and eight out of 10 nurses claimed they incurred muscle and joint pain frequently from their jobs. In addition to this, back injuries are one of the main reasons nurses leave their profession. Back injuries also cost health care workers billions of dollars a year.

Very few hospitals reportedly follow the national guidelines issued by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which state that nurses should not lift more than 35 pounds at a time. In reality, according to one workplace safety coordinator, nurses might lift 1.8 tons during an eight-hour workday.

Nurses not only assist patients to the restroom, but they boost them onto the bed and help turn them. All the lifting has taken a toll on their bodies-according to representative of the American Nurses Association, manual handling of the patient contributes directly to the musculoskeletal disorders that many nurses suffer. Despite this, only 10 states have issued regulations mandating patient handling requirements to protect nurses.

Some hospitals are trying to counter the problem by introducing the use of portable lifts that can handle 600 pounds at one time. Health care workers can use these rather than assembling three or four nurses to pick up the patient together. These hospitals are focusing on equipment, training and awareness to prevent workplace injuries.

Given all the lifting that health care workers do to help patients, they should not hesitate to ask for help when they sustain workplace injuries. When North Carolina workers are injured, they should consider filing a workers’ compensation claim, as is their right to do so. They may be able to recover compensation to meet their medical expenses and replace lost wages.

Source: The Tennessean, “Weight of patients becomes workplace safety issue,” Tom Wilemon, July 23, 2012

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