Back Injuries and the RN/LPN/Healthcare worker

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    The statistics regarding back injuries are frightening with aprox 80% of Adults expected to experience back injuries in their lifetime with 10% re-injuring! When it comes to health care professionals the statistics are even worse.

    Back Injuries and the RN/LPN/Healthcare worker

    The statistics regarding back injuries are frightening with aprox 80% of Adults expected to experience back injuries in their lifetime with 10% re-injuring! When it comes to health care professionals the statistics are even worse, one web site claims that:-

    According to national statistics, six of the top 10 professions at greatest risk for back injury are: nurse's aides, licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, health aides, radiology technicians, and physical therapists[/quote][quote]Healthcare industry workers sustain 4.5 times more overexertion injuries than any other type of worker.

    CDC state that 12% of nurses leave the profession because of back injuries sustained on the job!

    Nurses even have their own Website called WINGS which stands for 'Work Injured Nurses Group' who have useful resources for trying to improve injury (mainly back injuries) sustained at work.

    In the book Back Injury Among Healthcare Workers: Causes, Solutions, and Impacts (Charney and Hudson, CRC Press), many injured nurses and nurse assistants describe their individual post-injury plight of pain, poverty, and depression. All royalties from the book go to work-injured nurses, nurse assistants, and other healthcare workers as an effort to help in the face of staggering needs.

    America Nurses Association have fact sheets which give advice on how to protect your back. No RN or healthcare worker should think it will never happen to them and should be prepared for the unexpected.

    I know I suffer from chronic back problems and I worry when I am working the floor that should a patient collapse what should I do! I know I would find it extremely difficult to refuse to lift a patient but I know I will because I do not want to end up in a wheelchair at 50yrs old.

    Handle With Care Fact Sheet

    It may seem that Back problems/Chronic pain issues are not conjusive with working as an RN yet a large percentage of nurses actually work within the nursing field with these problems-more than anyone would actually believe.

    So we should assume than unless we are the 20% who will never suffer a back injury( which we do not know if we are part of this group) that we will, if we dont already have a back injury, sustain a back injury at work.
    We all have a responsibility to try and prevent such injury by being as informed as possible, protecting other healthcare workers as well as ourselves, and trying to persuade the powers that be in our healthcare facility to purchase manual handling equipment!.

    So what choices do we have if we are part of the 80% group?

    We are fortunate in nursing to have a profession which can take us from bedside to chair side with out actually changing our profession.

    The hard part is finding what is available to RN's who suffer from such ailments!

    Up until recently most potential nurses went into the profession to work as a bedside nurse, without giving much thought to working in other area's.

    Now 'potential' student nurses are more informed and have greater ambitions of working in other area's once they qualify. This has angered a lot of seasoned nurses who feel that time served at the bedside should preempt career moves into more advanced positions because this is the way it was always done before. I myself used to believe that time served was the way forward but understand that there is always positiveness in change.

    Change can be the stepping stone for many current and potential future RN's who suffer from back injuries, as more and more people enter the profession to bypass 'the old way' of time served, the more information presents itself of how we the back sufferers can envision our future. The 'greedy' universities who tempt anybody and everybody to do their courses by any means necessary can also educate us in the way we can nurse with imperfections and offer courses for everything connected to nursing.

    All we need to do is tap into this great resource.

    I often see threads about 'Bedside nursing is not for me' or 'Chronic pain sufferer where is my future in Nursing'

    These threads are a wealth of information and are well worth reading as our members are a huge resource. Normally the members who respond with idea's have a great deal of knowledge on the subject, making these threads and members a wonderful resource to tap into.

    Another good document I read during my research into back issues and nurses/healthcare workers can be found on the following link

    Chapter 39. Personal Safety for Nurses
    Last edit by Joe V on Jan 8, '15
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  3. by   VickyRN
    Excellent blog. I have heard that 40% of nurses have back injuries. I often remind my nursing students that they only have one back and it must last them the lifetime of their nursing career (40 to 50 years). All it takes is one incident to ruin one's back for life. I urge them to always follow proper body mechanics and to wait to move a patient until proper help or equipment arrives. "If you don't feel safe moving that patient, then don't do it!"
  4. by   Ingasim
    vicky, you are absolutely right. our backs is our strength and power. our patients need us and depend on us. with your experience you know much more than most of us do; what and how to save your back, but if that incident has happened how to treat it asap not to jump to chronic stage of back injury.
  5. by   Rodoon
    I think 12% is low. The OP supplies good info but this is where nurses need to put their foot down. Lift devices should be plentiful and not shared by units. Broken lift devices shouldn't take six months to fix. Stuffing administration suggestion boxes with WingsUSA info is appropriate. Another option is to begin your nursing career planning to move through the specialities and you'll save on back stress. Nurses that remain in heavy lift areas for long years accumulate more risk.
  6. by   BluesyJade
    Back injury = Limited job options. New grad = limited job options. Experience in LTC only = limited job options.

    Step 1- First practicum. Ridiculously heavy patient load, literally (respectfully). Attain gradual lower back injury, unnoticed, unreported.
    Step 2- Second practicum. Pain so severe you cannot sit without excruciating pain, or getting stuck. (on the toilet once, for 30min...)
    Step 3- Follow instructor's advice to get a check up & continue on regular duty. X-ray clear, no diagnosis, school/work related injury still not officially reported.
    Step 4- Graduate. Continue to experience frequent lumbar discomfort. Look for job with minimal bedside care/lifting.
    Step 5- Hired at LTC facility. Work 1 year & realize that caring for your 35+ residents & Running around without time for even pee breaks most days, is not a cake walk on your back either... or nerves.
    Step 6- Rock 3 interviews for hospital jobs... except for the broken record "We are looking for someone more acute care experience".
    Step 7- ...I don't know where to step anymore. Stepping hurts. I can't afford to quit. My family is in need of my 'financial contribution'. I owe thousands to student loans and can barely pay the $250.00 interest each month. But think I will collapse, if not from a back pain episode, then from the stress of current job. & trust, I can take a Lot of stress. But This. Is. Too. Much.

    I'm in my early 20's, & life has already been unceasingly... difficult. But these new circumstances... my dream of a better life is weakening. I know I seem melodramatic, but I could write a novel just stating the facts of my/my families current life trials. The opportunities for a "new" LPN, with a wrecked back, who is unable to dedicate to continued education at this time... goodbye nursing, hello... McDonalds?

    I do not take for granted the fact that I have been fortunate enough for the blessings I have been granted in my life. There are too many people that suffer far greater circumstances than I. & I feel lucky for a lot of reasons... but man it's hard sometimes. The biggest reason I had for going into nursing was to dedicate my life to helping people. As is turns out... I can't even seem to help myself.

    My selfish wish: I just want a pleasant, cushy job, where I can "make a difference", make a living, and be happy. How, when, & where will I find one?

    If I had realized the back injury sooner, & the importance of reporting it immediately, things might be different. But thinking back, I felt like an idiot for hurting my back weeks after we'd been trained & drilled on how not to. Then there was the scare that I would have to take days off to recover, which would result in being kicked out of the program, or having to jump into the next year's intake.

    Please, please... if you've managed to read through this rant... at least take a lesson from it: if you are injured at work or in nursing school, do not think, just report report report. Fill out those first aid forms & go see a doctor. No matter how great or small the injury... cover. your. gluteous maximus!

    Best of luck to all you hard working people xo Stay safe & thanks for being you.

  7. by   madwife2002
    BluesyJade it is horrible what happened to you but more common that we can prove. The fear of restarting with another intake makes us fearful and we shut up and put up!
    Never ever make the mistake of not getting good documentation and witness statements to any injury because the company you work for will fight it tooth and nail-especially if you re injure yourself!
  8. by   madwife2002
    Rodoon there are several sites stating that 12% leave nursing which I agree is low but I feel many nurses cannot afford to leave to another profession so just carry on!
  9. by   nrsemb
    Thank you so much for writing this article! It draws attention to the need of more effetive/safe ways to move patients. I worked in a facility that frequently admitted bariatric patients, most of whom were ventilator dependent and complete care.
    June 1 of 2010 is a day I will never forget. After helping my NA place a patient back in bed, I bent down to pick up her glasses that had fallen on the floor. I felt/heard a pop and was immediately in extreme pain. After 4 days in the hospital for intractable pain, I was diagnosed with a herniated l5/s1 disc. I had previously had surgery in 2002 and had made a complete recovery. After the surgery in June I continued to have pain and the toes in my right foot were starting to go numb. In October I had a MRI and was AGAIN diagnosed with a herniated disc. On 11/04/2010 I had a l5/s1 fusion, iliac crest graft with hardware. I spent 30 DAYS inpatient rehab before going home.
    I now have failed back syndrome, and acute on chronic neuralgia in my right leg. The last 3 toes , the ball of my foot, and the nerve line up my leg are numb. I'm in pain DAILY! I have to use a cane to ambulate, and have an AFO in my shoe.
    I was lucky to be approved for SSDI on the first try. Unfortunately because of what I get from SSDI they cut my Medicaid. I'm not eligible for Medicare until 02/12. I can no longer afford my medications.
    I never thought it would happen to me. I'm used to running down the hall to assist in codes, getting my patients in and out of bed, helping them to ambulate. I never thought I would be the patient!
    Something has to be done to better protect us as nurses. By this I mean everyone- STNA, LPN, and RN. We ALL have had to quickly get a patient onto the commode, stand-pivot a patient even though they cannot support their own weight because the hoyer lift is broke, run around the facility to find a hoyer lift that another unit has had to borrow, pull a 400lb total care patient over by hand because your hoyer would not support them and your facility will not invest in an air slider.
    We have to care for ourselves before we an provide good care to our patients! Facilities need to be held more accountable! We ALL need to speak up because I KNOW it can happen to me!!
  10. by   milksteak
    This is something I'm really worried about as I have scoliosiss and have had a good amt of problems from it. Would trhis be something that could prevent me from job opportunities?
  11. by   nrsemb
    Unless you have Dr's orders to not do certain things, YOU must decide what your limitations are. If you are concerned that you may get passed over for positions you apply for, ask your physician to order a Functional Capacity Evaluation. This will tell you EXACTLY what your limitations are, if any. If you accept a position, sign off on all the requirements and then something happens to your back on the job your employer may be able to get out of Workers Compensation. Unless your problems are obvious, or have been out of work, be careful not to put your back problems out there!
  12. by   Heogog53
    Check out the statistics at NIOSH. We are consistently in the top 10 for injuries.
    I'm a washed up nurse at 58 due to a back injury in 2006. I didn't get the proper PT until I got a lawyer and he got me into a proper PT program...but my employer no longer wanted me.
    I am not reliable, unable to guarantee that I can work more than 6 hours, nor a 40 hour work week. I'm applying for SSDI, cos there just aren't places for me to work around here that won't stress my body too much. I've ballooned up from a fit 130 lbs to over 200 and I am five foot one.

    I loved my job and feel if I'd been rehabbed properly the first time, would still be working.

    My injury had nothing to do with improper body mechanics; it had to do with a patient suddenly sliding off an OR table. Her knees had been replaced and there was no way in hell that I was going to let those knees hit the floor. Luckily for her, she had a bit of whiplash, but nothing more. Sadly for me, I felt something in my back POP and tear. However, my back injury is rated at only 3%....

    I have so much experience to offer and no where to offer it.

    SO- the best thing any nurse can do for her/himself is to exercise and make sure that your back and abdomen are in terrific shape at a minimum. Keeping fit will protect you from injuries.

    Funny thing, in the UK, there is no person to person lifting; they use machine assists. Ad they've been doing it for years...

    What's wrong with American nurses that we can't get the same treatment? WINGS has been trying to get a bill passed that requires all facilities to have lifting machines of all types plus asking why nurses can't qualify for the same treatment that police and firemen get in regards to injury. They get invalidated out and get disability support without having to jump through all kinds of hoops, unlike nurses.
  13. by   dclamb3
    I'm thankful for this thread. While I do have back and neck troubles due to being hit by a drunk driver nearly 20 years ago, my largest trouble-makers are my knee, hip, and wrist. I desperately want to work in the medical field, and intend to resume my nursing education (unless I find another position in healthcare that would be a better fit for my physical limitations before then), but I am *very* concerned that I will be too physically limited to do so.

    I imagine all nursing is taxing on your body, but are there any roles / departments etc (in addition to the obvious, management) I could do that would be less taxing on my already injured body (albeit I am getting a new knee in the next couple years when I'm able to take off that much work).
  14. by   nrsemb
    Have you thought about Case Management, Clinical Liason, MDS coordinator, Infection Control? They would all definitely require some advanced training, but they would all be less taxing on your body. I'm hoping to complete training for MDS soon- already having my RN degree it only requires a 3-day class! Good luck!