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How Physically Demanding is Your Job

Posted

Specializes in Med Surg/Ortho. Has 3 years experience.

And what unit do you work on? I am a prenursing student, leaving a very physically demanding job as a vet tech. A lot of bending, stooping, kneeling on the floor, wrestling with big dogs, lifting and carrying big dogs (either by myself or with help). And of course the occasional scratch or bite. My knees hurt a lot, and a decade ago I tore my trapezius muscle, which still hurts sometimes.

So one thing I worry about transitioning to nursing is how physical the job will be and the chances of getting hurt. I don't want to keep beating up my body. I'm almost 40 and am a small woman (5" about 105lbs). I'm not worried about the long shifts, being on my feet the whole time, or not getting breaks to eat or pee. I deal with that now no problem. And prefer to run around and be on my feet to sitting at a desk for 8 hours.

I just want to know what units are more demanding, more physical. I personally can't see myself doing ortho, but have an interest in NICU and the OR. And yes, I do know they are highly sought after fields. Likely I would have to work in other areas for a few years.

traumaRUs, MSN, APRN, CNS

Specializes in Nephrology, Cardiology, ER, ICU. Has 27 years experience.

Moved to prenursing for more answers.

welcome to AN!

Satori77, ADN

Specializes in Med Surg/Ortho. Has 3 years experience.

Thanks. I've actually been on AN for about 8 years now. Hopefully working nurses will see this post, because prenursing students won't know how physically demanding a nursing job is. Or which units are more physically intense. That's why I posted in General Nursing.

A lot of bending, stooping, kneeling on the floor, wrestling with big dogs, lifting and carrying big dogs (either by myself or with help). And of course the occasional scratch or bite. My knees hurt a lot, and a decade ago I tore my trapezius muscle, which still hurts sometimes.

LOL, if you replace the word "dogs" with "patients", you just described my med-surg floor experience! :D

There are avenues in nursing that of course are less physically demanding; you should expect to put enough time in on units that ARE physically demanding before you would be a qualified candidate for the "easier" (less-physical) jobs.

ALL acute care patient floors will involve a decent amount of physical movement, lifting, etc. And being on one unit doesn't mean you won't float to others (you will, without a doubt). I can't think of a way to get the kind of experience you would likely need for a less-physical job without going through one or more physical ones first.

And while it's easy for management to say "but we have Hoyer lifts, slide sheets, people to help with turning/positioning...."etc....the reality is that you WILL be hauling humans around to one degree or another. Weird exceptions are often the rule ;)

Good luck!

Thanks. I've actually been on AN for about 8 years now. Hopefully working nurses will see this post, because prenursing students won't know how physically demanding a nursing job is. Or which units are more physically intense. That's why I posted in General Nursing.

Don't worry, we will :)

windsurfer8, BSN

Specializes in Psych/Military Nursing. Has 14 years experience.

May I ask why you picked nursing? Nutrsing is by far one of the most physically demanding jobs in the medical field. You work 12 hour shifts and you are on your feet majority of the time. You will be moving 300+ lb patients. You will be bending, lifting, and kneeling.

Have you considered another area to work in? I have a friend who got his bachelors in cytotechnology. He makes more money than me...works M-f and looks through microscopes.

If you do decide to stick with it I would consider where in the hospital you plan to work and look for an area less physically demanding.

NICUmiiki, DNP, RN

Specializes in NICU/PICU Flight Nursing. Has 6 years experience.

Working in the ER was very physically demanding. Everyone got their fair share of rolling, pulling, pushing, stooping, squatting, occasionally jogging, and standing in awkward positions under sterile drapes while holding heavy appendages.

In the NICU, eh. I walk a lot. Most of our patients are under 5 lbs. Occasionally, I push a piece of equipment, but they all have wheels, so that's not an issue. *Here's my obligatory warning... Jobs in NICUs are not all that easy to come across.*

Tex.

Specializes in Critical Care.

I work in a LTACH ICU. Most of my patients are vented and sedated, and we do not have PCAs/CNAs in the unit. After 12 hours, I literally feel like I've been digging ditches all day. For every day I work, it takes me that many to recover. Work three days in a row? I'm in bed for three days after. I had no idea it was going to be this physically demanding.

Thanks. I've actually been on AN for about 8 years now. Hopefully working nurses will see this post, because prenursing students won't know how physically demanding a nursing job is. Or which units are more physically intense. That's why I posted in General Nursing.

Pre nursing student here and I work in a hospital and float to all the floors as a nursing assistant. I turn, pull, lift, assist ambulate patients all night long so I can give you my insight. The least physical unit in my hospital is the psych floor. Typically all of the patients can ambulate and bath themselves. Med surg and telemetry units here have heavy patient loads and a lot of complete care patients, at times they resemble a nursing home.

I am a nurse aid at a nursing home and it is pretty physically demanding. But thankfully, only a few of our residents are dead weight. You get better at it and I like that I get exercise at work.

By the way, I am only like 5 foot 2 and pretty thin and skinny. Getting stronger comes with time. You'll be okay.

Edit: I just noticed that you said you are a vet tech and already deal with heavy lifting and pulling. I think you should shadow a nurse for a day and judge how physical nursing is for yourself. I know that at the nursing home I work at the nurses do not do a lot of physical labor but it is probably a lot different at a hospital.

SopranoKris, BSN, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 6 years experience.

On any unit, you could have patients who cannot communicate with you. Just like with animals, you have to use their non-verbal & physical cues. You're going to have to use your muscles to reposition patients or assist them to a chair or the bathroom. Etc.

The best thing you can do is use proper body mechanics. Take advantage of the foot pedals on the bed to adjust it to a proper working height so you're not bending way over and hurting your back. Invest in a quality pair of supportive/comfortable shoes. Do exercises that strengthen the muscles you use for correct posture.

Good luck in nursing school :)

ETA: Many hospitals have a lift team for patients that are heavy. Call them if you are ever concerned about your physical safety. They can use mechanical lifts. Other facilities will certify you in how to properly use lifts. Depends on the policies at your institution.

Lift team? Never heard of such a wonderful creature! Never came across one yet. Lucky you!

SopranoKris, BSN, MSN, RN, NP

Specializes in Critical Care. Has 6 years experience.

Lift team? Never heard of such a wonderful creature! Never came across one yet. Lucky you!

All the hospitals I went to for clinicals had lift teams. Hmmm, maybe it's just in my area? I just assumed most hospitals were like that, since all 3 I went to had them. Yes, I do feel lucky to have them because I would not feel comfortable using a mechanical lift being a new nurse.

ICU: very physically demanding! We are super happy when our patients weigh less than 100 lbs! It takes many people to reposition any patient more than 350 lb! Lift team? Nope! Lift equipment? Sure! But lift equipment doesn't help when the patient gets violent or you do hours of CPR on them!

Try patients who weigh less...like babies! Or mostly independent/ ambulatory patients such as outpatient surgery or post-partum or L&D. Or you could do a desk/paperwork job such as case management, discharge planning, research, quality management, public health, etc.

Good Luck!

Satori77, ADN

Specializes in Med Surg/Ortho. Has 3 years experience.

Thanks everyone for sharing your opinions. Like I said, I I do have a physically demanding job now, and I probably should have mentioned that I did work as a CNA for 2 years in a nursing home. But I had to go back to vet tech while in school because I needed to make more money and have more flexibility.

May I ask why you picked nursing? Nutrsing is by far one of the most physically demanding jobs in the medical field. You work 12 hour shifts and you are on your feet majority of the time. You will be moving 300+ lb patients. You will be bending, lifting, and kneeling.

First of all, I never said I didn't want a physical job, or that I couldn't do physical work at all. I'm in pretty good shape, just not a big woman and I am getting older so need to consider that for when I am working in my 50s and 60s. (I'm 37 now and will be 40 probably when I graduate). But I see a lot of older nurses in not as good shape as I am, so I don't think it will be an issue of me being able to do the work. I just wanted a comparison of different specialties and how demanding they were.

Why do I want to go into nursing? A lot of reasons. When I went to vet tech school, I did it because I loved animals. I didn't realize how much I would love the science and nursing care. My favorite subjects are A&P, Microbiology, Parasitology, and Hematology. I love learning about the body and disease processes. Overall, I have greatly enjoyed working in veterinary hospitals, especially ER, ICU and surgery. But my career has become stagnant. There is no consistency with licensing across states. The pay is horrible. Most places don't allow for a lot of autonomy or upward mobility. It simply isn't challenging anymore. And I am a little tired of doing EVERYTHING minus the things only a veterinarian can do (fun things like treatments, running anesthesia and lab work to cleaning, taking out the trash, answering phones, filling prescriptions, laundry, cleaning instruments and wrapping pack, and cutting nails, etc).

Nurses have more autonomy, more respect, make more money, and work in environments where there is cleaning staff and laundry workers. Not that I am above doing simpler things like picking up a mess. And I know I will do basic care and help with moving patients. But I think about a third of my day is spent cleaning. At least. I have many friends who were vet techs that went to nursing school, and though they miss working with animals, every single one of them is happy with their decision. They feel like they use their education and knowledge more. There is diversity and room to move laterally as well as up.

I am not bothered by blood or guts things (in fact, I love traumas and surgeries). Bodily fluids or cleaning/bathing/wiping people does not gross me out. I can handle all of that from babies to the elderly. I like being on my feet as opposed to strapped to a desk. I like the idea of not doing the same thing every day, and working longer shifts so I can have more days off. One thing that being a vet tech has taught me is how to handle and talk to people. I love working with clients at my job. They come in and talk about their personal problems, or their health issues and I often wonder about their lives after they leave us. I'm good under pressure and stressful situations. I have to be able to prioritize and multitask every single day.

This is not a career change that I have thought about lightly. My mom is a nurse, has been since I was 12. She is the strongest woman I know. And she has often encouraged me to switch to nursing. Also, I think back on all the nurses I have come across. From times my parents and grandparents have been in the hospital, to me being in the hospital, to my husband needing surgery. Or when my daughter was born prematurely, not breathing, and spent time in the NICU. Honestly, I don't remember any of those doctors. But I remember every single nurse. I might not remember all of their names, or what they look like. But I remember their care, their compassion, their knowledge. And how much it gave me comfort or ease of mind. I want to be that nurse for someone.

Conqueror+, BSN, RN

Has 27 years experience.

Meh. I have done case management, occupational health, psych, and staff development. NO lifting at any time and the case management was all desk/phone/fax/computer. There are as many specialties as there are personalities (actually more). God bless nursing. You can find a job that is not physically demanding.

brandy1017, ASN, RN

Specializes in Critical Care.

It has gotten worse over the years because of the increasingly obese patient population and rise of the super obese and add to that the foley free environment where these people need to be turned and clean often and that adds up to more strain on one's back and body! I'm sure the dogs you take care of don't weigh hundreds of pounds. The average patient in a hospital is over 200 pounds and we get many that are 300-500 pounds. This is a safety issue, and a slide sheet is a joke. The only thing that is going to help move such heavy patients are celing lifts and hover mats. Throw the fake garbage bag liners away they are absolutely worthless, but cheap which is why many hospitals are happy to supply them rather than what actually works like ceiling lifts and hovermats!

Tex.

Specializes in Critical Care.

Lift team? Never heard of such a wonderful creature! Never came across one yet. Lucky you!

Lift Team. I think I'm in love. Please, Lift Team Gods, Hear my prayers.