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Q

I saw a news article that said nurses have the most dangerous jobs. I’m a nurse in a Philadelphia hospital and most of my work is routine. How can nursing be more dangerous than firefighting or logging or mining?

A

When it comes to on-the-job fatalities, there are some occupations that are obviously very dangerous. Pilots and flight engineers suffer 53 deaths per 100,000 workers. Fishing industry workers suffer 117 deaths per 100,000 employees, and loggers suffer 128 deaths per 100,000. Nursing certainly doesn’t make the list of the top ten deadliest fields. But, that’s only part of the story.

When it comes to the number of workplace injuries and missed workdays, nursing wins hands down. And almost half of all nursing injuries in Pennsylvania are musculoskeletal disorders. Musculoskeletal disorders refer to injuries that affect the bones, muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves. These injuries are generally caused by overexertion and repetitive strain.

Why is the risk of musculoskeletal disorders so high among nurses?

  • Nurses tend to work long shifts. A typical nursing shift is 12 hours long.
  • Nurses spend much of their shift on their feet.
  • Many healthcare facilities are understaffed, so nurses must work without help or without breaks.
  • Many nurses have a high patient load.
  • Many patients are overweight.
  • There is often inadequate equipment to handle overweight patients.
  • There is lack of education among both employers and employees about proper body mechanics and proper lifting procedures.

 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has set safe weight lifting limits for patient handling by female nurses at 51 pounds. But, nurses typically handle patients weighing up to 300 pounds on their own. In a typical shift a nurse may lift as much as 3000 pounds. When this happens day after day, the body breaks down. Nearly one-third of nurses have reported a back injury. Of that number, half have been injured severely enough that they are unable or unwilling to return to work.

If you have suffered an on-the-job back injury, you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits will pay part of your salary while you are unable to work. To learn more, request a free copy of Your Guide To PA Worker’s Compensation or call Mednick, Mezyk & Kredo, P.C., at 888-807-WORK (9675).