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A false sense of safety in the health care industry

Nurses, orderlies and emergency medical technicians face the risk of injury each time they have to help a patient. One of the activities that can lead to an injury is having to lift the patient or support his or her weight.

Improper technique while you are handling patients can lead to serious back injuries. In most cases, these are musculoskeletal disorders, such as back injuries. The rate of these injuries for workers in the health care field is seven times more than the average for all industries.

A false sense of safety

On the outside looking in, it seems as though health care workers have a pretty safe job. Consider this, the incidence rate for musculoskeletal disorders that led to having to miss days of work was around 249 per 10,000 workers. The construction industry's rate is only 85, but people think that the construction industry is much more hazardous than health care.

Helping others comes at a cost

Many patients in hospitals and long-term care facilities need help getting out of bed, getting onto the toilet and doing any sort of activity. The obesity epidemic in the United States is one of the factors that is making lifting and transferring patients more dangerous for health care workers. In some cases, the worker has to bend over the patient to try to move him or her, which can exacerbate the chance of injury.

Types of injuries

Strains are the most common injuries that occur due to patient transfers and lifting. In most cases, the lower back and the shoulders are impacted. These injuries are often severe enough to require the worker to have to miss work to allow the affected area to heal.

Proper techniques and equipment

Using proper techniques when supporting patients and when lifting them can help to avoid injuries. Typically, workers should have another person there to help them when they lift a patient. The exception is if there is a lifting, transfer or repositioning device that can safely be used by one person. These devices can even help the patient to feel more comfortable since he or she isn't being supported by only hands and arms.

When a health care worker is injured during the course of patient care, claims for workers' compensation might be forthcoming. Overall, the direct and indirect cost of health care workers' back injuries is around $20 billion each year. This staggering sum is reflective of the scope of the issue.

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