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Lifting patients and the threat of injury

Nursing is one of the fields in which workers are more likely to be injured. As a nurse, you face a greater risk of injury on the job than people who work in fields that are classified as strictly physical labor.

Lifting patients is the No. 1 cause of injury for nurses. According to recent studies, nurses account annually for over 35,000 back and musculoskeletal injuries that are severe enough to force them to take sick days.

Does technique matter?

Even if you are using the proper techniques you learned during training, lifting patients causes significant strain on your body. Doing it repeatedly throughout each shift causes even greater stress on your back, joints and muscles.

Studies by experts at the Spine Research Institute at Ohio State University have concluded that several factors inherent in the lifting process itself can cause injuries. The three main problems with the process are distance, bending and repetition.

Nurses have to lift a patient while standing at the side of the bed, which is too great a distance to really be able to lift the patient easily. Although you may be bending at the knees, most of the force is going to be supported by your back, which can strain the disks.

Every time you lift a patient, you risk injuring your spine and disks a little more.

Does team lifting reduce risk of injury?

Some hospitals require that patients be lifted and transported by a team of staff members. Unfortunately, hospitals are not always staffed enough for a team to be available. Another downfall to this policy is that in some life or death situations, there is not time to mobilize enough staff members to meet "team" requirements.

Another drawback to team lifting is that not all staff members can support the same amount of weight, leading to an unequal distribution of the patient's weight that still puts you at risk of a back injury.

If you have been injured while lifting a patient and need to file a workers' compensation claim, it is important that you understand your rights and options. For advice about filing a claim, contact an attorney experienced with workers' compensation.

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