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Nurses face a high risk of musculoskeletal disorders

When you hear “dangerous industries,” you may think of mining, construction, manufacturing or a host of other accident prone jobs. However, few people immediately consider nursing.

According to the United States Department of Labor, nurses faced the highest rate of musculoskeletal disorders of any industry (MSDs) in 2010. The incidence rate was 249 per 10,000 employees. In comparison, the rate of MSDs for construction workers was 85 per 10,000 workers. What can nurses do if they are seriously injured on the job?

Why are so many nurses affected by MSDs?

Nurses primarily develop MSDs interacting with patients. They overexert themselves lifting or repositioning patients. This is necessary to complete basic tasks such as moving a patient from their bed to the bathroom, or transferring a patient out of a wheelchair. The high rate of MSD injury is exacerbated by increased rates of patient obesity, which increases the nurses’ required lift load.

What are the effects of MSDs?

Unfortunately, MSDs can have a long term negative impact on a nurse’s health. What may appear to be a mild sprain can spiral into chronic pain and functional disability. A nurse may be required to repeatedly lift and reposition patients in the course of a day. Once they sustain an injury, it may be hard for the nurse to rest the injured area and heal properly.

If an injury does not properly heal, the nurse may experience high medical bills, require medical leave or choose to quit their job entirely. OSHA reported that approximately 20 percent of nurses leave patient care positions due to work-related risks.

What can nurses do if they face injury?

If you sustain a MSD during work, do not ignore the problem. Report the incident and injury to your supervisor. Prevent a chronic injury by seeking immediate treatment. Receive a health evaluation if necessary and rest the injured area. Your job may normally require lifting, but avoid using the injured area while you heal. Tell your coworkers about the injury and ask for help with tasks that aggravate the pain until you heal.

Depending upon the seriousness of the injury, consider contacting an attorney who can evaluate your claim for worker’s compensation benefits.

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