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Avoiding Back Injuries in Nursing

Avoiding Back Injuries in Nursing

Lisette Hilton | Monster Contributing Writer

September 30, 2008

Nursing, especially in the hospital setting, is physically demanding — and nurses’ backs bear the brunt of their jobs.

Just how prevalent are back problems in nursing? According to an American Nurses Association fact sheet:

• RNs ranked sixth among occupations most at risk for strains and sprains — higher than stock handlers and construction workers.

• Studies of back-related workers’ compensation claims reveal that nurses have the highest claim rates of any occupation or industry.

• More than half of nurses complain of chronic back pain. Back pain has caused 20 percent of nurses to transfer to different jobs and 12 percent to leave the profession altogether.

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Improper lifting or transfer techniques are prime culprits behind nurses’ back woes, says Scott Howell, PA-C, of the Florida Back Institute. Boosting patients from lying to sitting and the quick movements needed to keep a patient from falling can also cause injury, according to Jill Taylor Pedro, RN, MSN, a clinical nurse specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

There’s no way to completely avoid these motions, but there are things you can do to lessen the threat of career-ending back pain.

Use Good Body Mechanics

“For lifting, nurses should bend at their knees, using their legs and not their backs,” says Howell, who specializes in orthopedic spine issues. “While transferring patients, nurses should use transfer boards and assistance from a second individual.”

Rick Kassler, MSPT, OCS, supervisor at the Orthopaedic and Sports Therapy Center at the New York University Hospital for Joint Diseases, adds nurses should keep the objects or patients they’re lifting as close to their midsections (centers of gravity) as possible.

Maintain the back in a neutral position that preserves its natural curves, Kassler says. “The key to maintaining a neutral spine when bending forward or lifting is to bend or ‘hinge’ from the hips, not from the back,” he says.

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    giftideasformen

    about 3 years ago

    102 comments

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    Emmatol

    about 6 years ago

    186 comments

    It's really a write-up that exposes you to various means of avoiding the predisposing factors to back pain and it proffers alternatives to less strenous specialities. Indeed the comments are worth it, directional and concise.

    Thanks.

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    NURSEMA

    about 6 years ago

    6 comments

    Mckean,
    Therapy and more therapy in combination with time can help you to heal. Neuromuscular therapy is a type of massage therapy combined with PT and has been successful for me.
    Perhaps you can move from a full time CNA position to a sort of job share position where you can work as a CNA for a portion of a shift and a unit clerk or monitor watcher for the other portion ??

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    NURSEMA

    about 6 years ago

    6 comments

    Finally, the word is out that nursing is a demanding profession - cognitively challenging, physically demanding, and at times mentally exhausting. I hope that the future of clinical nursing takes advantage of the steady increase in nursing job related injuries and advocates the use of newer technology and adequate staffing to prevent any nurse from suffering from an on the job back injury. Awareness is the firs step to change.
    Speaking as a nurse who has suffered an on the job back injury although not in an expected fashion - no patient transfer or fall - YES there is a need for nurses who cannot practice in the clincal setting due to restrictions.
    My injury occurred in the form of an auto accident while working as the supervisor for a homecare agency. Multiple years later I was released to attempt to find work as a nurse.
    It was a strenuous process, however there is life after clinical nursing......remember you still have a welath of knowledge and experience to your credi as a nurse.
    I would suggest working with a vocational rehab specialist to begin the process of finding a career that allows an injured nurse to work within any medical restrictions.
    Some ideas:
    Nurse Educator
    Consultant work for workers compensation and personal injury attorney
    Case management for managed care organization
    Intake nurse for homecare services
    Discharge Planning nurse for Long Term Acute Care hospital (LTAC)
    Senior services clinic nurse
    Nurse Aide educator

    Just some ideas that I considered. Then there is always higher education in nursing - many state are deferring student loans for MSN track nurses in certain specialty areas, like nursing education.

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    Mckean

    about 6 years ago

    36 comments

    I am a CNA and had back surgery last year. I am waiting to see if I will be able to return to my position. I hate hurting my back because I love the medical field I am hopeing someone can give me advice on what to do now.

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    kris

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    I believe most of us do use good body mechanics. I have found that most of my back aches and strains have come from unexpected maneuvers during patient care. What do we do when a patient suddenly goes limp? We have to keep that patient from falling...whatever it takes. I have seen this scenario time and time again. Does anyone have a strategy for this?

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    kdblueey

    about 6 years ago

    6 comments

    I want to respond to the nurse who had the question re: What is a nurse's chances of getting hired after a back injury. I am currently a nurse traveler, but was offered a permanent position in the ICU, which I had decided to take. Back in August, I injured my back with one of the patients, but the worker's comp claim was made through my travel company, not the hospital. So when the ICU supv (the one who hired me) went on vacation, I had my pre-employment physical, which the hospital said that I failed. I had to do a 'wall slide' test, then squat for 2 mins. Being overweight, I was unable to complete the test. So I was told by Human Resources that I did not get the job. So when the ICU Supv came back, she was told that I didn't get the job. She was told before she left, that certain people at the hospital weren't happy with her hiring me,and the main reason was because I had that back injury. So in this case, I didn't get the job because of my back injury.

    Kathy

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    kstiltner1

    about 6 years ago

    7170 comments

    There is not always enough help when you are working all these suggesetions are great but when you are faced with a 350 pound drunk that is getting ready to knock you out then what do you do about body mechanics. Let's see them pull a night in the ED with 3 nurses 36 beds and they forgot to schedule enough help. OOPS.

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    diane316

    about 6 years ago

    1024 comments

    Great article, good advice, but not always practical....I agree with the other two comments.

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    PWilliams

    about 6 years ago

    2 comments

    What is a Nurse's changes of getting hired after a back injury? Used good body mechanics but still got injured trying to connect vent tubing; pt found on the floor trying to get air pass the bubbling sputum.

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    laura59

    about 6 years ago

    408 comments

    When a pt is falling, good body mechanics are not usually the first thing on the nurses' mind.

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