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The Healthcare Profession – Hazardous to your Health?

What do you think is the most dangerous non-lethal job in the United States? Construction? Manufacturing? Actually according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, healthcare careers (such as nurses, nurse’s aides, and orderlies) number among the most hazardous of professions.  

Perhaps one of the reasons for this disturbing statistic is the number of ways a nurse or health aide can suffer work related injuries.   An article on Medscape.com details several types of injuries:

  • Musculoskeletal Injuries from lifting and moving patients;
  • Needle stick and sharp injuries, especially in operating rooms;
  • Exposure to hazardous drugs such as chemotherapy and many other medications;
  • Exposure to hazardous chemicals used in cleaning and sterilizing facilities;
  • Radiation exposure;
  • Infectious disease exposure;
  • Assault and violence from patients and visitors, which is often underreported;
  • Additional common workplace injuries, such as slips and falls.

Musculoskeletal injuries from moving and lifting patients is one of the most pervasive problems in the industry.  Injured Nurses, an NPR series, explains the issues involved.

Patients are increasingly obese and immobile, and the age-old rules of body lifting mechanics have not proven to be effective: there are over 35,000 back and other injuries to healthcare per year in healthcare.  Some of the injuries are acute, and some build up over time.

“The bottom line is, there’s no safe way to lift a patient manually,” says William Marras, director of The Ohio State University’s Spine Research Institute, which has conducted landmark studies on the issue. “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.”

Some hospitals, notably in the Department of Veterans Affairs, have installed motorized lifts and hoists in patient areas, and trained employees in new methods for transporting patients.  This has resulted in up to an 80% reduction in the number of worker injuries.

Many facilities have been slow to incorporate these improvements.  They don’t want to fund the initial expense to install the machinery, in spite of the eventual savings in workers’ compensation costs and replacement of experienced personnel who are forced to leave their jobs because of their injuries.  The NPR series also cites an attitude toward nursing staff as “expendable” in the hospital hierarchy.  They recommend congressional action to force the changes necessary to protect nurses and healthcare workers. 

If you have suffered a work injury, you should always contact an attorney immediately to discuss your claim and steps necessary to protect your rights.  Calls to our office are free and confidential.

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