Do RNs do a lot of heavy lifting?


I talked to an rn and she said RNs don't do heavy lifting. (I have a minor lower back injury so i cant do a lot of heavy lifting) That it's the LPNs and cnas who do the rolling of patients and RNs do the dressing changes/IVs. Just wanted other peoples say on this.


149 Posts

Specializes in Rehab, pediatrics. Has 2 years experience.

Depends on the kind of work. I would just go in with the mindset that there will be heavy lifting. There are nurses that refuse to do "CNA work" but I've always been the type to help them whenever I can. There are also situations where you're not always going to be able to have that second person that can help you turn someone or change someone, etc.

I imagine a clinic type setting might be better on the back but I'm sure they have times of heavy lifting as well. But maybe a different setting than working on the floor is something you could look into.


280 Posts

Specializes in tele, ICU, CVICU. Has 12 years experience.

I would say it depends more on the type of setting working in. I've never done LTC, always hospital acute care, ICU, cardio etc and in my experience everybody is responsible for turning & propping, boosting patients, etc. While the RN's will often delegate such tasks, that doesn't mean they aren't responsible to ensure it is done. So, if your CNA or whomever is delegated to turn & prop, or boost and they don't do it and leave after shift, you are ultimately the one who takes the heat.

Also, I believe most schools and/or employers require a physical to determine your condition and being able to meet the minimal physical requirements without extra accommodations being made.

Yes, most places have lifts and equipment to do the bulk of heavy lifting, but sometimes going to get the lift, rolling the patient to get the harness/lifting equipment properly placed makes it a significant burden and very time-consuming to utilize it. In my experience, most times, it sits in a storage closet and it certainly doesn't help save backs sitting there. It really depends upon the setting you practice in. In a longer term care environment, it seems most RN's are more responsible for paperwork and that type of thing, and then the CNA's & LPN's would probably handle the majority of the physically demanding parts of the job. Again, just from talking with colleagues/previous students that have gone into long term care.

Also, being that you already have a minor back issue, it may be wise to think about other type careers. Even if you are in perfect shape going into a nursing career in your 20's or even 30's doing such rigorous work over time will catch up with you. Don't get me wrong, injuries can happen from one bad event/poor lifting technique but I have more lately been hearing that minimal injuries over time do add up and cause significant problems, as well. Sorry, probably not the encouraging answer you were wanting, but it's true.

Good luck whatever you do!


48 Posts

Specializes in Postpartum/Lactation/Nursing Education. Has 15 years experience.

RN's definitely do heavy lifting. Perhaps not in all areas, but in many. Keep in mind there are facilities that do not utilize CNA's and thus the RN's there may likely being doing primary/total care activities. Also, many facilities have also fazed out LPN's so that all nursing care falls on the RN. Another thing to consider is staffing ratios. Even if there are CNA's or LPN's when staffing is poor the RN may have to do significant amounts of turning, lifting, and other such tasks as there may be more patients requiring such assistance than the CNA can reasonably be expected to care for without the RN's pitching in. Remember as well that while in nursing school the expectation will be that students complete many of those "heavy lifting" activities. Good luck :)

Horseshoe, BSN, RN

5,879 Posts

When I worked in ICU, there were no LPNs. And I've never witnessed a unit who did give RNs the right to delegate the lifting to the LPNs in order to spare the RNs. In ICU, we had one CNA, who unfortunately lacked the ability to be in more than one room at a time. Therefore, RNs definitely did quite a bit of the heavy lifting. We all helped each other multiple times per day.

Now that I am in endo and OR (PRN in both), I never have to do any lifting of any kind.

So it really depends on the type of nursing.

Specializes in ORTHO, PCU, ED. Has 8 years experience.

Definitely depends on what area of work the nurse is in, but oh yes do I do heavy lifting...every shift.

Specializes in Operating Room. Has 11 years experience.

I used to work on an inpatient orthopedic unit and yes, I did a lot of heavy lifting. Spine patients who can't roll and need to be boosted up in bed multiple times a shift, ankle or femur fractures who need help to the commode, etc. and if they were overweight it was a real challenge. We relied on each other a lot for help with moving people! Having an upper extremity fracture patient was a dream.


293 Posts

I do not do much heavy lifting as a school nurse, but when someone needs lifted, I am required to do it whether it's assisting with toileting, catching a fainter, whatever. Not sure what area of hands on nursing you can avoid lifting altogether.


20,964 Posts

Specializes in Specializes in L/D, newborn, GYN, LTC, Dialysis. Has 26 years experience.

I have done a ton (pun intended) of heavy lifting in my career. There are jobs where this is not a requirement, but most patient care entails heavy lifting and even with equipment, the burden can be great. It's nothing to have patients who exceed 400 pounds in many settings. Even being in an outpatient setting, I do a lot of lifting and moving of big patients.

If you already have issues, they will probably get worse if lifting is involved. Proper body mechanics can only do "so much".

Also you need to know, many settings have NO aides or LPNs (why should they all the heavy lifting anyhow?) so yes, it's YOU that will be doing the heavy work.


913 Posts

Specializes in School Nurse, past Med Surge.

Shame on any nurse who thinks turning, lifting, repositioning, etc., is below her or someone else's job! There is nothing an RN should delegate that she isn't willing to do herself. Because ultimately the responsibility for ensuring those tasks are done falls back in her! RNs do plenty of "lifting." There are all sorts of contraptions to help, but the simple act of even rolling a larger patient takes some muscle.

Has 21 years experience.

I lifted very heavy patients as a CNA, I lift heavy patients as an LPN, and I will be lifting heavy patients as an RN in a couple months after I take my boards. As others have stated, it depends on where you work, but the only time that I have seen where an RN has not had to do ANY lifting was in an office doing a computer job where both RNs and LPNs spent the entire day reviewing charts and there were no patients. I have lifted the heavy patient in a doctor's office. I have had regional facility RN directors that have assisted with lifting a patient. Why? Because they were in the room and everyone else was already busy assisting another patient/resident. There are very few positions that are patient care that will not require some degree of heavy lifting (The amount will vary depending on the patient population).

The RN that you spoke to stated that she didn't do any heavy lifting. That she just did dressing changes and IVs and had the CNAs and LPNs do all the lifting. What if she was in the room and the other staff were busy with other patients? Would she not help the patient? Would she just say, "I'll get the CNA or LPN to come help you"? Patients don't like to be put off and the staff do not warm up to senior members that have this attitude. Nursing requires teamwork.

I understand that you have a back injury and you are interested in nursing. I would suggest making sure that that the specialty you are interested in has a level of lifting that you are allowed to do with your restrictions. Also, make sure that the school that you are applying to can work around them as well. I'm not sure what the laws regarding schools. I do know that except for the one job that I had that there were only charts to work with, I had to fill out pre-employment paperwork stating that I could lift at least 50 Lbs.