|As health care workers, it’s your duty to care for the well being of others. That doesn’t mean though you should overlook your own health or well being. Strained backs, sore necks, aching knees are all common hazards of the job that can impede your ability to be efficient in your care for others, your colleagues and yourself.The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that health care workers experience musculoskeletal disorders (or MSDs) at a rate exceeding that of workers in construction, mining and manufacturing. The highest prevalence of back injuries occur among nurses aids, attendants and orderlies, often the result of lifting, transferring and repositioning of patients, and the use of awkward postures.Monetarily, the direct and indirect costs associated with back injuries in the health care industry are estimated to be $20 billion a year. It’s estimated that in just one year, more than 10,000 registered nurses will suffer lost-time work injuries due to lifting patients. These monetary expenses, however, are not the only losses to our health care system.|
It is reported that back injuries and other MSDs have caused at least 12 percent of nurses to leave the nursing profession. It’s clear that preventing injuries and preserving the health of our clinicians, as well as other important positions in health care, must be a priority.
Moving patients and the physical work is all part of the job, but there are steps that can and should be taken to prevent injury. Consider these tips:
- Know your health care organization’s back injury guidelines
Many hospitals and clinics have guidelines in place that advise employees on how to prevent back injury. Some even provide seminars and workshops that aim to promote back care among employees. Find out what your facility has to offer and take advantage of these opportunities—your back will thank you. If programs like these do not yet exist within your organization, rally support to offer them. Build awareness with other staff members by distributing e-mails, flyers or memos and offer a tangible takeaway, like an ergonomic pen or back massager.
- Create lift teams
Work as a team to accomplish more, safely. Research has found that having more than one nurse lift, shift and/or transfer a patient can reduce injury.
- Avoid repetitive or prolonged movements and rest often
A leading cause of MSDs, repetitive movements should be avoided. While it’s true that moving patients laterally and turning patients every day is repetitive and unavoidable, it is important for nursing staff to somehow be able to take rest periods after doing these repetitive motions within a short period of time. Similarly, avoid holding equipment or positions for long periods of time without rest.
- Remember to bend at the knees
Bending to wash patients, pick up equipment, adjust beds and tray tables and so on is part of every day in the health care world. When possible, squat down, keeping the back straight, and lift up using the legs; this will help prevent strain on the lower back. OSHA offers great posters to display in employee work areas that illustrate the safest ways to lift boxes and heavy equipment—consider requesting one today.
- Never underestimate a pair of good shoes
Good shoes with good support and soft soles will help ease back pain, leg pain and feet pain. Many are nonslip, too, which can prevent falls that lead to serious injury. Remind staff of the importance of foot care in preventing back injuries by offering gel shoe inserts, embroidered socks or fun tennis shoe-shaped pens.
- Encourage mindful behavior
Reward fellow teammates for practicing safe lifting, reviewing back injury guidelines and demonstrating leadership in forming lift teams. Offer them recognition in printed newsletters along with a token of appreciation, like a personalized ceramic mug or zippered tote.
Protecting yourself and your staff from back injuries is sure to minimize incidents while ensuring the utmost of care for patients. Take a few moments to review and communicate your back injury guidelines and safety tips today.
“Back Injuries Are Increasing Among Healthcare Workers « Envision Inc’s Healthcare Blog.” Envision Inc’s Healthcare Blog. Web. 06 Mar. 2011.
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