Is Nursing Dangerous?

by Bones17 Bones17 Member

Hi all,

This is my first posting on here. I just had a question about working as a nurse. Is it basically guaranteed that working as a nurse will result in becoming injured through time?

I love the sound of nursing but I'm afraid of getting life-long injuries from prolonged periods of standing to do your work, lifting patients, from doing shift work (health risks to disrupting the regular sleep-cycle) or from exposure to fumes/liquids/hazardous substances/radiation/illnesses.

I understand that patients can become violent so I guess that is unavoidable unless you learn restraining techniques or are strong which I’m not. I just don’t want to start and then become unable to even work after the first 5 years of starting. Would you say it’s how you look after yourself? Do you know nurses who aren’t injured from doing nursing for a long time? Thank you! I appreciate your answers.


203bravo, MSN, APRN

1,202 Posts

4 hours ago, Bones17 said:

Is it basically guaranteed that working as a nurse will result in becoming injured through time?

Where are you getting is information? I have been in various healthcare roles since the 1990s and have not suffered any injuries... I am a firm believer in practicing safe techniques - especially lifting with the knees and requesting lifting assistance as necessary.

4 hours ago, Bones17 said:

I understand that patients can become violent so I guess that is unavoidable

This is true of any career today ---- just watch youtube for the number of fast food servers that get assaulted while at work.. human behavior is hard to predict regardless of where you are and what your career is

MotoMonkey, BSN, RN

Specializes in ED. Has 3 years experience. 248 Posts

I am curious where these thoughts are coming from? Is it the portrayal of nurses in media, or is there someone in your life that has told you these things? I don't mean to come off as rude or condescending but this seems to be a pretty naive view of the nursing profession as a whole.

8 hours ago, Bones17 said:

Is it basically guaranteed that working as a nurse will result in becoming injured through time?

8 hours ago, Bones17 said:

Do you know nurses who aren’t injured from doing nursing for a long time?

This makes it sound as though you think that nurses NOT injured on the job are the minority of nurses. If the majority of nurses were injured so badly as to never be able to work again after five years on the job it would be unsustainable and there would be huge government investigations to understand why hundreds of thousands of nurses are being disabled every year while on the job.

Yes being a nurse comes with a level of risk and there is the potential to be injured on the job through various means. However, nursing is not some wild west profession where you're losing coworkers left and right from unavoidable injuries.

There are systems in place to minimize the potential for workplace injuries. Hospitals use lift teams, or mechanical lifting devices to help protect nurses backs. There are systems and standard procedures in place to help protect nurses from exposure to illness and blood born pathogens.

As a nurse shift work is the norm and while you may start on nights, there will be opportunities to move away from that shift. As far as standing, I would rather have a job where I am often standing and walking compared to a job where I sit for eight hours a day.

Hoosier_RN, MSN

Specializes in dialysis. Has 29 years experience. 3,557 Posts

Any career holds the potential for physical harm if you don't use common sense and protect your body and learn to use the tools in place to prevent harm! Yes, my back hurts some days after 20+ years, but so does my sister's back and she works in an office, and has lifted things she shouldn't. And as far as workplace can happen to anyone anywhere. I've been assaulted as a nurse, but had it happen in a grocery store in my teens as don't let that be your guide for choosing a career

adventure_rn, BSN

Specializes in NICU, PICU. 1 Article; 1,538 Posts

I actually do think it's a reasonable concern.

I can't remember the context, but I do recall attending a presentation/conference where the presenter talked about safety; the statistics do support that healthcare workers are far more likely to be injured (i.e. back problems) and/or assaulted than other fields.

That said, just because the risks are higher doesn't mean that it's a common occurrence or that it happens to everyone. There are certain steps you can take personally and that your employer can take to help you stay safe, both in terms of personal injury and in terms of violence from patients.

There are posts on the front page of AN all of the time about horrible workplace violence incidents (there's one right now about a patient who grabbed a nurse by the throat); those posts are a bit inflammatory, and they exist to get readers riled up so that we'll demand better protections by our employers/government. However, they definitely aren't a reflection of the typical nursing experience.



18 Posts

Thanks everyone for your comments! I've read on all nurses about nurses getting injuries like neck, back or leg problems from working as a nurse. Someone said they can't return to work.

I've also read someone's post about how they work in emergency. They said that they have worked with nurses with a black eye, broken arm and a fractured hip from violent patients and that they have worked with/seen nurses kicked, punched and spat on. They said that some nurses have even left the profession due to the injuries that they have suffered or are being overexerted/burnout from work.

I thought it might have been how well you care for yourself but then I found websites like this: shift Work:

I also found this (fitness for practice as a nurse):




SummerGarden, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in ED, ICU, MS/MT, PCU, CM, House Sup, Frontline mgr. Has 14 years experience. 3,370 Posts

I agree with the others and you OP, this is a reasonable concern. Our profession, depending on your place of work, is considered very dangerous because of violent patients and because of the nature of our work. With that said, although there are precautions and lots and lots of training, there is no way to tell you that you can and will remain safe. I know of a recent example of someone who was choked at work (both hands on the neck) by a patient and the likelihood is higher in our profession compared to others, again, depending on where you work. Good luck.


bestallaround, ADN, CNA, LPN, RN

Specializes in Telemetry/Stepdown, Government Nursing. Has 23 years experience. 71 Posts

In my experience, I do think nursing is dangerous. I have been kicked, punched, spat on, had my breasts and crotch pinched- all by patients who are not in their right minds. I have had coworkers who have received black eyes, broken noses, one who sustained a broken hip after being pushed by a patient, one a broken toe after a patient shoved a computer monitor off a desk onto her foot. I worked in a hospital in which one employee murdered another employee at work, an employee attempted suicide at work, and patients often carry weapons and sometimes illegal drugs. It all depends on where you work, what kind of patients you work with, and how supportive your work environment is when it comes to safety and workplace violence.

I will say though, I probably do work in the "wild west" of nursing. I have worked with patients with alzheimers, dementia, behavior and psychiatric problems in long term care, ED, inpatient psych, and step down units with veteran population in a federal hospital (which you would think is safer, actually is not) and my current hospital population consists of a community with a serious opioid crisis and crime problem.

Now all those incidents I have encountered personally or known to happen at my workplaces could have also been experienced by police officers, corrections officers, social workers, postal workers, any other worker in any other field. Just keep up with the news, it's dangerous to walk out your front door.

I agree that all professions come with risks and common place injuries/physical threats to health. But studies by OSHA and APA, do show health care professionals are at higher risks of injuries (not exclusively, on the job injuries), worker fatigue, and untreated chronic stress. (The only reason I feel I can back that up is because I just recently did a research paper on this subject for school.)



138 Posts

Honestly I've hurt myself worse at a desk job. Nothing worse for your back than sitting in front of a computer for 40-60 hours a week.



18 Posts

Thanks everyone! Would you say that the three captions that I posted which list the physical demands of a nurse is fairly accurate? (Hopefully not).

2BS Nurse, BSN

Has 9 years experience. 670 Posts

You forgot about mental injury. I do know nurses who have worked in environments such as the ER who suffer from PTSD. With that said, you have many options. I don't know what the job market is like where you live (small town vs city), but if you're willing to relocate you can choose your job environment and find your niche.


steven007, BSN, MSN

Specializes in Psychiatry. Has 9 years experience. 6 Articles; 117 Posts

On 7/14/2019 at 1:39 PM, MotoMonkey said:

Yes being a nurse comes with a level of risk and there is the potential to be injured on the job through various means. However, nursing is not some wild west profession where you're losing coworkers left and right from unavoidable injuries.

I laughed so hard at this comment. I just pictured a hospital, with a bunch of nurses in old Western uniforms, dodging bullets and running down halls with guns.

But on a serious note, I think the area of nursing you work will dictate the level of danger you are exposed to. I personally work in a forensic facility and have had staff stabbed with pens, punched, had their hair pulled out, hit with doors, beaten in the hall, etc. However, I understand the risks, I understand how to keep myself safe and I NEVER cut corners in terms of my own personal safety. This has worked fairly well for me thus far *knocks on wood*. Not to say that the staff that have had these horrific events are to blame, that is not at all true! But, just being aware of your surroundings can definitely help! And the employers tend to try their hardest to provide you with the resources and training you need to stay safe. Be sure to use all that they give you and pay attention to all of the training.

That said, I have personally found less violent forms of nursing to be more traumatic. I remember my first code blue in ER. The patient past away and i had nightmares for weeks about my family members and friends dying and not being able to resuscitate them. 2BS Nurse talked about PTSD and I believe that is very real in nursing.

But many nurses who don't feel like these areas are good fits will move on to other areas such as public health nursing, policy or management nursing. I think the question you need to ask yourself is, do you want to be a nurse? Because chances are, if you want to be a nurse and you are passionate about a specific area of nursing, you will learn to mitigate the risks and practice smartly and safely. If you completely avoid nursing because it is so "dangerous" I find it hard to believe that you were ever serious about nursing to begin with. Not to be condescending or rude, I say this empathetically and with great understanding. There are many things I have done that are super dagnerous. Sky diving for example, cliff jumping, speeding down the highway doing 120 for example. I understood that these things were dangerous. But the danger did not outweigh the fact that I WANTED to do them. I was passionate about it and I did it, despite the risks.

So ask yourself, are any of the potential risks worth you wanting to do nursing? Or is nursing just a pasing phase? If so, that is no problem. Nursing is not for everyone and I hope, regardless of what you decide, you are happy with what you chose :).