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Preventing Back Injuries in the Workplace

Preventing Back Injuries in the Workplace

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back injuries, back strainAt the annual Academy of Medical-Surgical Nursing conference, where I taught a legal preconference, I picked up a flyer created by a clinical nurse specialist. She reported on the factors associated with back injuries of nurses. Sharon Perkins MSN RN CRRN of South Shore Hospital highlighted the frequency and cost of back injuries.

In 2005, the U.S. Department of Labor identified back injuries as causing one out of every five workplace injuries or illnesses. Twenty-five percent of workers compensation claims involve back injuries.

Hospitals try to eliminate back injuries by teaching classes in body mechanics, providing back belts for patients, train in safe lifting techniques, and do the manual lifting. There is strong evidence that each of these techniques is not effective in reducing caregiver injuries.

Both patients and nurses can be injured by the activities associated with care. Nurses are aging, as a population, and are at higher risk for microtears in their back muscles caused by lifting. The activities associated with nursing involve strain on the back. The physical care associated with washing patients, getting them out of bed, or lifting them up in bed is physically demanding, unpredictable, and done in difficult conditions. Patients are at risk for falls, fear of falling, and loss of dignity.

I have pulled more patients up in bed than I can ever calculate. I have learned over beds to put on clothing or support stockings, move people off or on stretchers, on and off toilets, change sheets, or apply equipment. My back bears the reminders of these years of strain.

How do you reduce injuries to nurses and patients? These are some strategies that work:

  • Use patient handling equipment or devices.
  • Have no lift policies.
  • Use patient lift teams.
  • Use patient assessment protocols.

Med League provides medical expert witnesses to trial lawyers. Please call us at (908)788-8227 or contact us today to discuss your next case.

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