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Investigation Shows Nurses / Hospital Workers Face Serious Injury Risks

Nurses sustain more on-the-job injuries than construction workers, yet many hospitals don’t do enough to protect them, an NPR investigation recently found.

Statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that 35,000 nurses suffer back and other injuries every year, many of which stem from lifting and turning patients.

Those injuries are serious enough for them to suffer chronic pain, miss work and even require them to have surgery or quit their profession altogether, the NPR investigation revealed.

Why Do Nurses Suffer Back Injuries?

Experts say that part of the problem is that nursing schools do not teach students lifting techniques that reduce strain on the spine. They are trained in “proper body mechanics” – the practice of keeping the back straight and bending at the knees and hips when lifting – but researchers say those techniques still expose nurses to forces that their spines cannot safely withstand.

Advances in modern technology make it possible for nurses to maneuver even the heaviest patients safely. Devices such as special hoists can do much of the heavy lifting for them. However, many hospitals have not invested in the equipment, and those that have it do not make it easily accessible to nurses, NPR found. Many other facilities do not provide employees with the proper training to use the equipment, or special lift teams are not available when needed.

“There are, you know, just a minority of hospitals that are … really moving forward with this,” Carla Luggiero, the senior associate director of federal relations and a lobbyist for the American Hospital Association, told NPR. “Most of them are very slow to get on the train.”

In some instances, hospitals simply deny that a nurse or hospital worker’s injury arose on the job. For example, a case study in the multi-part NPR series found doctors who worked at a hospital facing a lawsuit over an injured nurse’s back. The doctors agreed the damage was caused by lifting patients, but the hospital’s attorney insisted that the injury partly happened when the nurse lifted food out of her oven.

Hospitals are not required to publish their injury statistics, so the scope of the problem remains unclear.

Research has been done into why relatively few hospitals have worked hard to reduce nursing injuries, and the cost to purchase the equipment is one reason why. But that is an unacceptable reason, especially when workers in their 20s and 30s are suffering career-ending injuries and safer alternatives are available.

Nurses, nursing assistants and orderlies spend their days and nights helping people and their loved ones get healthy. But that should not be at the expense of their own well-being.

If you are a health care worker who has sustained an injury on the job in Albany, Syracuse or elsewhere in New York State, or if someone close to you has suffered such an injury, it is important to consider legal action. You need to protect your rights. For a free consultation with our lawyers, contact Powers & Santola, LLP, today.

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