March 8, 2015
Most occupations pose some risk of muscular injury or dysfunction. Depending on the job, employers may be at risk of anything from back injuries to repetitive strain injuries. Job duties that are more physical come with more detrimental risks. When thinking of the most common and severe work-related injuries, one might guess they happen in construction fields or industries with heavy machinery. However, the most consistently high-ranking job for injuries and missed work due to injury is nursing.
The Nursing Field – How the Demands of Their Job Affect Them and You
The resulting pain and injuries from this job become very expensive when looking at all the factors. Approximately 38% of nurses require leave from work due to work-related pain. Missing work is not only costly to the employee, but also the employer and the staff who has to work harder to fill shifts. Over half of nurses suffer from chronic back pain – pain that needs to be treated and that is exacerbated by work duties. Not all cases qualify for worker’s compensation, either, because many disorders accrue over time and are not the result of one incidence. One-third of nurses younger than 30 plan to leave the field in the next year because of the physical demands of the job. Nursing students sustain MSDs before even entering the field. Nurses who leave the field because of pain and injury are giving up their incomes after having spent time and money on education in addition to any medical expenses necessary to improve their physical conditions. Finding a new career may mean further education, and depending on the severity of any MSDs, there may be a smaller window of job fields nurses can pursue.
The good news is that organizations, legislation, and field experts are taking notice of these dire conditions. Bills to implement lifting equipment and safety training in healthcare facilities are routinely being introduced and updated. Nursing school curriculum includes safe patient handling and moving concepts. Additionally, extensive research has been performed on the investment return on safe handling equipment. In an 18-month study, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality found that in less than five years, all direct and indirect costs to implement safe lifting programs were reclaimed.
The measures experts are taking to improve the safety of those in the nursing field are important for more than just the healthcare professionals. If a nursing staff is working while fatigued or in pain, they risk injuring their patients. Also, if a facility is short-staffed, patients may not be receiving the attention they need. Solving manual lifting problems in the healthcare field may also offer better ergonomic solutions to other manual materials handling (MMH) jobs. After all, MSDs are reported in all fields and still extremely common in MMH. Sparing costs and time missed at work is a priority for every worker, manager, company president, and insurance company. Providing nurses with safer jobs will leave a wake of positive change far beyond the healthcare field.