Can I be a nurse with a bad back?

Nurses Nurse Beth


Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Dear Nurse Beth

I have back problems and work in the hospital. Can I still make a career out of this? I'm a nursing student but just got a job in the hospital as a cleaner. I clean beds, take out trash and I also clean the bins with all the needles and stuff, clean patients rooms. Can I do this with back issues is it very hard on the back?

Dear Bad Back,

Everyone is individual. It depends on your overall fitness, body mechanics, the extent of your issues, and even body type. You must learn to protect your back. Usually, a "planned" lift or move doesn't injure your back when you use good body mechanics and get help when you need it.

At the same time, nursing is very physical, and many activities are not planned. While it is recommended not to lift more than approximately 35 lbs., there is a cumulative effect to repeated activities.

Back issues don't necessarily automatically rule out nursing, but you must be careful. Only you can protect yourself. Look for organizations that use lift teams, if possible, or at least provide ergonomic training. Also consider that there are many career options in nursing, some much easier on the back than others.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth


Author, "Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job"...and your next!

I hurt my back 28 years ago catching a patient who was falling, I was an RN at the time, declared permanently partially disabled, and still work full time. I became an NP 13 years ago due to believing I can assist with moving and turning patients for exams part of the time but all day every day I would likely not have been able to work until retirement. So depending on the nature of your back issues, I would say "yes." I would try to look for a facility where minimal lifting is involved, or maybe look at pediatrics (patients are usually smaller.)

There are also 'no lift' facilities out there to work in. One of those being the VA. Hard to get in but worth the struggle.

Specializes in EMS, ED, Trauma, CEN, CPEN, TCRN.

Just remember, one has to get through school clinicals before one can get these low/no lift jobs.

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