Back Injured Nurses

  1. 2-4-02
    Hi, Brian,

    In response to your request for suggestions on what is needed in the Nursing Bulletin Board:

    We need "Back Injured Nurses" to be a separate topic.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics now classifies health care patients as a direct cause of on-the-job injury. Nursing remains one of the highest risks for injury with a back injury occurring every 30 minutes among health care workers in America. Eighty-seven per cent of nurses report low back pain. Thirty-eight per cent suffer back pain or injuries severe enough to require time off work at some point in their career with 44% of the injured unable to return to their nursing positions.

    During the nursing shortage, it is important to address all issues impacting retainment of valuable experienced nurses and all factors contributing to the shortage. Unnecessary loss of nurses from preventable disabling back injuries is often overlooked in discussions about the nursing shortage.

    I'm forwarding below the response to a recent online article. Would you consider posting it?

    Thank you,
    Anne Hudson, RN, BSN, BIN
    "B.I.N. There" - Back Injured Nurse

    Response to online article follows:
    Modern Healthcare's "Daily Dose"
    January 30, 2002
    Keeping track of the industry's movers and shakers...

    Labor shortage isn't letting up: survey
    By Jeff Tieman

    A "severe shortage of healthcare workers" is getting worse, and already more than one in seven hospitals say they don't have enough registered nurses, according to a report released today by several industry trade groups, including the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals...

    ...Indicative of a tight labor market for nurses, 60% of 1,092 hospitals surveyed said recruiting nurses had become more difficult over the past two years. To address the problem, 89% of hospitals said they have paid "higher or much higher" salaries to retain nurses, 56% have used agency or traveling nurses to fill vacant positions and 41% have paid signing bonuses...

    To the editors:

    Thank you for this article highlighting the nursing shortage and problems with recruiting and retaining RNs.

    Though a significant contributor to the nursing shortage, preventable back injuries are being overlooked by many of those commenting on the shortage. For instance, the 15-page July 2001 Nursing Workforce report to the U.S. General Accounting Office by Janet Heinrich, Director, Health Care--Public Health Issues, "Emerging Nurse Shortages Due to Multiple Factors" contains not one word about losing nurses to back injuries though 38% of nurses will suffer back pain/injury requiring time away from work during their career with many nurses unable to return or forced out of nursing.

    The United States continues to lose nurses to preventable disabling back injuries caused by out-dated manual patient handling practices. America is behind Canada, England, Denmark, and other European countries where laws prohibit physically lifting hospital patients because of the recognized danger to both patients and nurses. For example, English nurses can be disciplined by their employers if they manually lift patients while American nurses are required to manually lift patients that many times weigh as much or more than the nurses themselves.

    Abundant research has shown that manual patient handling practices, such as pulling patients up in bed, lifting patients to their feet, and transferring patients from stretcher to bed, exert compressive forces to the lumbar spine which exceed the 3,400 Newton tolerance limit set by NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, research arm of OSHA.

    Research has also shown that use of friction-reducing products and mechanical lifting and transfer devices greatly decreases physical effort and back injuries associated with lifting and moving patients.

    For a partial listing of available research:

    Though many types of safe, gentle, patient-moving equipment are available, many health care facilities neither provide nor require use of this equipment. Rather, nurses and other health care workers are required to physically lift and move patients, leading to many preventable disabling back injuries.

    In addition to the unnecessary pain and suffering associated with preventable injuries, back-disabled nurses are not necessarily welcomed back by their employers if they can no longer physically lift and haul heavy patients.

    Throughout the nation are many back-injured health care workers, in pain and out of work after suffering preventable injuries. An analogy would be withholding forklifts while requiring stevedores to lift heavy loads and then terminating them for getting hurt.

    Though the outlook is bleak for the backs of nurses who are presently being required to lift loads which exceed tolerance limits of their spinal structures, safe patient handling is being addressed in a few progressive areas. The Washington State Ergonomics Rule is leading the way to Zero Manual Lifting in Washington health care facilities.


    Also, from:, "The Department of Veteran's Affairs, funded the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital, Tampa to establish a VISN 8 Patient Safety Center of Inquiry...Two goals...(1) To promote personal freedom and safety for frail elderly and persons with disabilities, across the continuum of care and (2) To build a "culture of safety" to support clinicians in providing safe patient care and safe working environments. Three other Centers, organized under the VA National Patient Safety Center, are in White Plains (VT), Cincinnati (OH), and Palo Alto (CA)."

    Ideas for recruitment and retainment for the one in seven hospitals that do not have enough registered nurses: Have they considered allowing their back-injured nurses to return to work, into positions that will not further harm them, and preventing future unnecessary loss of nurses by purchasing safe patient handling equipment and implementing policies requiring its use?

    Anne Hudson, RN, BSN, BIN
    "B.I.N. There" - Back Injured Nurse
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    About Anne Hudson

    Joined: Jul '01; Posts: 5


  3. by   Cascadians
    Excellent, and so necessary to highlight this issue.

    We work where the facility has 2 Arjo Encore Sit-To-Stands and 1 Arjo Marisa Lift.

    We utilize both extensively, working as a team.

    When we come onto the floor, this equipment away in obscure closets.

    But we get these out and use them, and when we're on shift our patients are actually given time on the commode

    Would never work in a facility without a Sit-To-Stand again.

    Staff doesn't want to "spend the extra time," 2-3 minutes hooking up these machines. Also they don't want to be perceived as "wienies."

    We've been caregiving for 29 years and want to keep on -- looking out for backs / hips / bods, paying attention to PT demos and body mechanics classes.

    Thinking of buying an Arjo Encore Sit-To-Stand for our homecare biz if the need ever arises.
  4. by   Anne Hudson
    Hi, Cascadians,

    Wonderful comments on the value of mechanization of patient handling - safer for both patients and health care workers.

    "Would never work in a facility without a Sit-To-Stand again." I've never worked with one! Was very impressed with demos of sit-to-stand lifts (and a large variety of other patient handling equipment) at last month's "Safe Patient Handling and Movement" conference in Clearwater, Florida, but I've not yet seen one in use with patients.

    The two-person under-axilla lift using a gait belt exerts from 4,600 to 4,895 Newtons of force to the lumbar spine. The one-person "hug" lift exerts 6,336 Newtons of force, almost double the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's safety limit of 3,400 Newtons.

    Manually lifting hundreds and hundreds of patients to their feet helped to make me what I am today - a Back Injured Nurse.

    Keep up the good work of protecting your back and your patients by using the Sit-to-Stand and other mechanical lifts.

    Best wishes,
    Anne Hudson, RN, BSN, BIN
    "B.I.N. There" - Back Injured Nurse