Nurses Become Patients: Nursing Assistants Injured More Than Any Other Job

by Steve Fields | April 15th, 2016

While a variety of healthcare worker injuries often occur in a hospital setting, one particular healthcare profession tops the list for workplace injuries, not just in a hospital setting, but among all occupations. Data demonstrates that nursing assistants injured at work is more common than any other type of job in the United States.

According to an NPR special series on Injured Nurses, the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates more than 35,000 back and other injuries occur among nursing employees every year. Next in line are warehouse workers, trucks, stock clerks and then registered nurses.

Nursing assistants are required to lift and move patients, and because of the growing numbers of obese people in this county, many of these patients are severely overweight. Nursing staff are at risk for injury performing their everyday lifting duties, which some nurses estimate that they perform 15-20 times each shift.

According to William Marras, director of the Ohio State University’s Spine Research Institute, “there’s no safe way to lift a patient manually”. “The magnitude of these forces that are on your spine are so large that the best body mechanics in the world are not going to keep you from getting a back problem,” Marras said.

Some hospitals are utilizing special machinery to lift patients, in an effort to reduce workplace injuries among nursing staff. However, not all hospitals are taking such precautions. Further yet, we’ve seen workplace injuries occur among nursing staff even when using precautionary equipment such as Hoyer lifts.

Some nurses and nursing staff across the country are claiming that hospitals are not doing enough to protect their nursing staff from being injured. The nurses are crying out for help in the form of more staff to help with lifts, better equipment for lifting, David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor leads the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is also speaking out on the issues.

He said that injuries among nursing staff are “a very important issue”. He goes on to say that, “[t]here’s no question: A national law requiring protection in hospitals would protect workers and would result in the reduction in musculoskeletal injuries in hospitals.” But OSHA’s powers have been limited by Congress, which means that the agency can do little in terms of requiring hospital to protect their nursing employees.

While the efforts to make hospitals safer for employees continue, injuries are still occurring at an alarming rate. These injures can be life-altering, and in some cases, career-ending. If you feel a pop, a burn, or any other discomfort when lifting a patient or performing any other job duties, you could be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits.