The Battle to Prevent Nursing Back Injuries

Of all the manual-labor positions, it is somewhat stunning that nursing is still among the highest rated jobs for work-related musculoskeletal problems. Even with this information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 40 states have no regulations or laws for safe handling of patients. While some facilities have taken the steps to provide safe lifting programs for nurses and other healthcare providers, many feel that nationwide legislation is needed to make sure the programs are comprehensive and widely implemented.

A Real Pain in the…Back

According to the American Nurses Association, 80% of nursing professionals suffer from joint and muscle pain. In addition, over 60% of nurses list fear of becoming disabled from lifting-related injuries as a top stressor. It is no wonder these statistics are so high. In spite of National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health recommendations stating that nurses should lift a maximum of 35 pounds, many employers are still requiring nurses to lift very heavy weights with no assistance.

The obesity epidemic combined with a nursing shortage and aging nursing workforce come together to create an environment ripe for back injuries. Around 65% of hospital patients are obese and understaffed hospitals are causing nurses to move more patients in the course of a shift. This leads to an enormous financial burden on the healthcare system at around $2 billion a year for musculoskeletal injuries in nurses.

What Is Being Done?

The Work Injured Nurses’ Group USA states that it is irresponsible that so many nurses have no access to assistive equipment for lifting patients. They are among the groups pushing for safe patient handling (SPH) legislation.

Currently, there are only 10 states with laws regarding SPH procedures. National legislation died in Congress and reintroduced in 2011. The passage of such legislation would result in decreased costs related to injuries, the reduction of workers’ compensation and legal charges, and longer careers for skilled nurses. It will also lead to patients being turned more often, safer transfer of patients, higher nursing satisfaction, and improved patient satisfaction.

An effective SPH policy would need to cover the use of equipment, patient assessment, education, and training. This legislation would help support hospitals that may be having difficulty getting the needed equipment in place.

While there are certainly obstacles to getting SPH legislation on a national level, the benefits of such laws would definitely outweigh any costs. Nurses are a vital part of the healthcare system. They spend their lives caring for society. Shouldn’t society start returning the favor?