Why nurses are at such an elevated risk of overexertion injuries

Aug 25 2016

If you were to ask any nurse or other healthcare professional why they elected to work in a hospital setting, there’s a very good chance that most would answer that they wanted to work in an exciting atmosphere where they could make a real difference in patient care.

As admirable as this is, it’s important for anyone currently working in such a position or actively debating entering the hospital workforce to understand that they are at an elevated risk of suffering what are known as overexertion injuries.

For those unfamiliar with overexertion injuries, these are essentially the muscle sprains (stretching or tearing of ligaments) and strains (stretching or tearing of tendons or muscles) that occur when a worker pushes, pulls, lifts or carries a load that exceeds the limits of these bodily structures. While overexertion injuries can strike in the neck, shoulder, wrist, knee, ankle, they frequently occur in the lower back.

As to the earlier point of nurses and other hospital workers being more at risk of overexertion injuries, consider that while data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that average rate of overexertion injuries across all sectors was 33 per 10,000 workers as recently as 2014, it also shows the average rate of overexertion injuries among hospital workers was 68 per 10,000 workers.

As to why nurses and other hospital workers are at such an elevated risk of suffering overexertion injuries, experts attribute it to manual patient handling, meaning manually lifting, repositioning or moving/transferring patients. Indeed, the risk of suffering overexertion injuries while moving patients has become even greater in recent years given the country’s obesity epidemic.

The good news is that many hospitals have implemented what are known as Safe Patient Handling and Mobility — SPHM — programs designed to help neutralize much of the risk of overexertion injuries by providing staff with access to much-needed equipment to help move patients, including portable and fixed lifts.

We’ll continue this discussion in our next post, examining and debunking some of the common myths associated with overexertion injuries among nurses and hospital workers.

In the meantime, if you have suffered such an injury — or any other type of bodily trauma while on the job — and your claim for work comp benefits has been denied, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional to learn more about your options.