Nurses and healthcare workers can have a number of injuries occur as they care for their patients. I have heard of nurses switching from working with adults to working with babies because it is easier on their bodies. What kind of work-related injuries have you seen in your career?
Common Workplace Injuries for Nurses
People who take up a career in nursing often do so in the hopes of being able to help people who are ill or injured. You may not expect to get injured yourself, but the truth is, the type of work nurses do and the environments in which they practice can make them more vulnerable to certain injuries. Don’t miss this quick guide to common nursing injuries:
Back, Neck, and Shoulder Pain
It is no surprise that musculoskeletal disorder associated with patient handling makes the top of the list when it comes to the topic of common nursing injuries. Incidence rates for this type of injury are more prevalent among nurses than it is any other industry (including baggage handlers and construction workers!) and research shows that the repetitive reaching and pulling actions can put you at higher risk.
Whether you are lifting a patient who fell, repositioning them in a bed, or transferring them to a wheelchair, the repeated stress on your spine can lead to chronic pain and injuries like rotator cuff tendonitis, pulled muscles, sciatica, and herniated disks. Not only can injury of this magnitude sideline your job temporarily, but it can also make you more susceptible to future injuries.
Preventing back, neck, and shoulder pain takes thoughtful and proactive steps including following lifting protocols at your healthcare institution, be it a hospital, nursing home, etc. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) dictates workplace guidelines for heavy lifting which require 2 or more people to lift anything (or anybody) over 50 pounds and recommend avoiding awkward postures and lifting anything with inadequate handholds.
Utilize lift and transfer devices as often as possible, lift from your “power zone” (with your legs), and if your place of work does not have training or action plans in place to address the lifting needs of patients, talk to administrators about setting them up.
In the event of a musculoskeletal injury, seek an evaluation from a doctor right away. Early intervention can potentially prevent invasive procedures down the line and allows you to start treating a minor injury before it becomes a major one. Muscle strains, sprains, and tendonitis are most often addressed with:
Ice and heat therapy
Over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatories
Physical therapy and compression
Your doctor may also recommend wearing orthotic aids to better support injured joints and muscles. For example, a shoulder brace can restrict unsafe movement during recovery from a rotator cuff injury or a neck brace can stabilize critical tissues around the spine to prevent a pinched nerve.
While varicose veins may seem like a simple aesthetic issue, they are actually a visible example of vein dysfunction that you will want to monitor should they develop. Unfortunately for nurses, they can be quite common.
One of the hallmark aspects of nursing that can facilitate vein dysfunction is the sheer amount of time spent standing on your feet. Your body is always working against the force of gravity to circulate blood back up from your feet and legs towards your heart. When the tiny ducts in your veins have trouble preventing blood from flowing backward the wrong way, blood can sometimes pool and lead to bulging dark-colored varicose veins.
In the long-term, varicose veins can increase a nurse’s risk of developing dangerous clots like deep vein thrombosis. Nurses who work long shifts can take measures to prevent varicose veins including:
Wearing compression hose to promote better circulation
Elevating feet and legs above heart level following a shift
Alternating standing and sitting throughout a shift
Stretching and moving the calves and feet when standing and sitting
Physical and mental distress among nurses has been on the rise in large part because of workplace assault. It is sad to say, but nurses often bear the brunt of physical and verbal assault from patients, especially in high-stress hospital settings. Some surveys have reported upwards of 1 out of every 4 hospital nurses has experienced some type of assault on the job but experts want nurses to know, that being the recipient of violence like scratching, biting, and hitting should never be considered just another part of the job.
Increasing rates of untreated mental illness and opioid addiction, for example, can be contributing to assault injuries among nurses whose job it is to treat these patients in need. While there is currently no specific federal regulatory standard to address violence against nurses, more and more seasoned nurses are taking up the cause and starting to fight for greater support.
Key measures like requiring de-escalation training, working closely with local law enforcement, establishing protocols for addressing patient violence, and simply raising awareness about the issue can go a long way to protecting nurses and preventing dangerous situations in hospitals.
Jessica Hegg is the content manager at ViveHealth.com. Avid gym-rat and nutrition enthusiast, she’s interested in all things related to staying active and living healthy lifestyle. Through her writing she works to share valuable information aimed at overcoming obstacles and improving the quality of life for others.