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Nurses risk their health to protect us

"To do what nobody else will do, a way that nobody else can do, in spite of all we go through; that is to be a nurse." ~ Rawsi Williams, RN

When people think of dangerous jobs, they often recall images of construction workers falling off scaffolding or police officers shot in the line of duty. Very few people understand the dangers nurses face. Nurses are the heart of our hospitals, their role the cornerstone of our care. They risk their health every day in order to protect us.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (Department of Labor), more than 35,000 nursing employees miss work because of a work-related injury every year. In fact, the rate of musculoskeletal injuries such as back injuries is three times greater in the nursing profession (particularly among nursing assistants and orderlies) than in the construction industry. And that number takes into account only the reported injuries - not the many other injuries that nursing professionals suffer quietly.

Why nursing professionals are injured should not come as a surprise. Nurses, orderlies and nursing assistants frequently transfer patients, lift patients, work very long hours and are on their feet with few periods of rest. Nurses who work in hospitals might lift patients more than a dozen times a day.

A fear to speak up, a resolution to "suffer through"

Due to years of administrators turning their backs on nurses and a fear of losing their jobs and their livelihoods as caregivers, many CNAs, RNs, Home Health Aides and other nursing professionals will only speak up about their injuries after they have become unmanageable. Others will take sick time and believe they can "push through" injuries that typically would qualify for workers' compensation.

The back injuries caused by patient transfers and other nursing responsibilities are severe enough that they should be addressed. We have seen too many nurses face years of pain because they were afraid to act. As a society, we need to take action to help our nurses get the medical and financial support they need to address their injuries. It's the least we can do for a profession that gives us so much.

And nurses should know: you cannot lose your job solely for filing a workers' compensation claim. If you have been injured on the job or believe your injury has been caused by your job duties, do not hesitate to speak with a workers' compensation attorney about your options.

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