Back Care for NursesWellness â&º Ergonomics âx º
Back Care for Nurses
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Alan Hedge, PhD, CPE
+A Construction workers, warehouse personnel, delivery goods drivers, nurses,
shopkeepers and farm workers. If you had to choose, which of these occupations
suffers the highest incidence of back injury? You might think that construction
workers or delivery goods drivers might be the riskiest occupations for back
injuries, because the work involves a lot of bending and lifting, but you'd be
wrong! Many people are surprised to learn the nursing is the riskiest occupation
for back injuries! In fact, nursing has the second highest incidence of all
types of non-fatal work-related injuries in the U.S.A.
The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics are shown below in Table 1, and nursing
easily tops the list of occupation as most associated with work-related
musculoskeletal disorders. By what is this and what can be done to reduce risks?
Number (in 1,000s) of work-related musculoskeletal disorders involving time away
from work and median days away from work by occupation,
1998.OccupationNumber Median days away from work
Total musculoskeletal disorders592.57
Registered nurses, nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants61.55
Janitors and cleaners14.05
Stock handlers and baggers11.35
Construction laborers 10.87
(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1998).
In all industries combined, 1998 injury data show that nearly 12 out of 100
nurses in hospitals, and 17.3 out of 100 nurses working in nursing homes report
work-related musculoskeletal injuries, including back injuries, which is about
double the rate for all industries combined.
Recent Research on Back Injuries in Nursing
A Dutch questionnaire survey of back pain prevalence and physical work demands
compared nurses working in institutional care with nurses working in patient's
private homes, where there was more frequent and heavy lifting and transferring
of patients, plus more static workloads. Results showed that back pain
prevalence was relatively high among these community nurses, as compared to
rates among nurses in other health care sectors. Community nurses with back
pain, who continued to work, reported providing less efficient home care work.