Upset patients, deadly diseases, and infected needles may appear to be the biggest threats to nurses but the most common cause for workplace injuries is heavy lifting. Back injuries are so common that nurses rank among the top professions that suffer from musculoskeletal disorders, coming in right alongside freight and stock laborers.
Even proper lifting techniques can result in injuries
Experienced nurses will already know that back injuries are typically caused by lifting patients. Nurses work alone or sometimes in teams to move patients from beds to wheelchairs. While in school nurses learn specific training techniques for lifting. Unfortunately studies show that traditional lifting techniques are causing spinal damage in workers.
During school and hospital training nurses are taught to use proper body mechanics to keep their backs straight while knees and hips are bent. Researchers at the Spine Research Institute at Ohio State University have found that excessive force is produced along the spine even with the use of these techniques. The result is that continuous manual lifting is causing spinal damage in nurses nationwide. Over half of workers' compensation cases for nursing assistants are due to back injuries.
Why won't manual lifting techniques work?
According to Ohio State's research current manual lifting techniques will cause injuries in nurses for many reasons. First of all the weight of most patients is too much for one nurse to handle. Team lifting is typically used when a patient is too much for one nurse. Unfortunately team lifting techniques can cause even more harm. Weight is unevenly distributed and there is more room for mistakes causing sudden shear forces.
Another issue is that nurses have to stand at the side of a bed to help move a patient. The distance is usually too far from the patient, increasing stress on the spine in weird places. Nurses also have to bend to pick up patients. This bending motion while lifting is a common cause of injury. Lifting while standing leaves forces on the bones but lifting while bending will exert pressure on the disks, a very sensitive part of the spine.
Finally many injuries are cumulative, meaning that they happen over time. Repeated lifting will cause microscopic tears in the spinal disks, eventually leading to a disk to collapse. That is why many nurses won't feel the effects of their injuries all at once; instead injuries slowly develop over the years. Nurses who are suffering from sudden or cumulative back injuries from lifting should not hesitate to file for a workers' compensation claim with the help of an attorney.