While patient safety is always being prioritised, workplace safety for nurses seems to have largely been neglected. The number of work-related injuries in healthcare settings has increased in recent years (U.S Department of Labor, 2005). The majority of these injuries occurred as a result of overexertion, which commonly resulted in back injuries and other musculoskeletal problems (Siddharthan et al., 2005).

Why are nurses at high risk of injury?

Nurses are exposed to hazards related to lifting and transferring clients in various clinical settings, such as inpatient nursing unit, long-term care facilities and the operating room (DeCastro et al., 2006). In fact, manually lifting and transferring clients contribute to a large number of work-related musculoskeletal problems and back injuries in nurses and other healthcare staffs (Nelson & Baptiste, 2006). This occurs as a result of injury to the lumbar muscles when lifting, transferring, or positioning an immobilized client.

What are the possible injuries?

Back injuries are often the direct result of improper lifting and bending. The most common back injury is strain on the lumbar muscle group, which includes the muscles around the lumbar vertebrae. Injuries to these areas affect the ability to rotate the hips and lower back. Meanwhile, musculoskeletal injuries among health care workers are not only related to lifting and transferring clients; nurses spend much time in many activities involving bending and twisting, which might gradually cause musculoskeletal injuries. Examples of such activities include lifting objects, pushing beds, bathing, feeding, dressing and undressing clients (Nelson et al., 2003).

How to prevent workplace injuries?

 

1) Proper body mechanics while handling clients

In addition to knowing how to move clients safely, nurses also need to apply concepts related to body mechanics in the workplace. Before beginning the task, it is crucial to understand one's capabilities for activities such as lifting and moving objects. When lifting, assess the weight to be lifted, and determine the assistance required. If tproviding care like bathing a client, consider the condition of the client and whether or not the client can assist too (Nelson et al., 2003). When nurses cannot safely complete a task like moving a bed from one room to another, the number of people needed to help must be assessed, and the job should not start until these are available, to avoid injuries to the nurses, other team members, as well as the client.

2) Correct body posture

When lifting heavy things, nurses may follow these steps to prevent injury. First, the nurse should keep the weight to be lifted as close to the body as possible. This action places the object in the same plane as the lifter and close to the center of gravity for balance. Then, properly bend the knees as to maintain the center of gravity and use the strongest leg muscles to do the lifting. Next, tighten the abdominal muscles and tuck in the pelvis as this helps to provide balance and help protect the back. Finally, tthe trunk should be kept straight with knees bent so that multiple muscle groups can work together in a coordinated manner (Nelson et al., 2003).

Current evidence shows that many nurses frequently transfer to different positions and leave the profession due to these work-related injuries (DeCastro et al., 2006). Thus, healthcare institutions should implement evidenced-based interventions and programs like a lift team, which will reduce the number of workplace injuries and improve the health of nurses, indirectly reducing the costs to the health care agency such as worker’s compensation and replacing injured workers. MIMS

Read more:
Nurses: Know your occupational hazards and minimise your exposure
Nurses, be cautious: Workplace hazards in healthcare institutions in Singapore
5 ways to improve your health in the workplace
Nurses: 5 simple ways to benefit from meditation

Sources
DeCastro, A.B. et, al. (2006). Prioritizing safe patient handling, J Nurs Adm 36(7/8):363.
Nelson, A., et, al. (2003). Safe patient handling movement. Am J Nurs. 103(3):32.
Nelson, A., & Baptiste, A.S. (2006). Evidence-based practices for safe patient handling and movement. Orthop Nurs 25(6):366
Siddharthan, K. et, al. (2005). A business case for patient care ergonomic interventions. Nurs Admin Q 29(1):63.
U.S. Department of Labor. (2005). Career guide to industries; health care.