Nursing is a lucrative and rewarding career for many people in Pennsylvania. However, registered nurses working in the private health care industry are among the workers most at risk for on-the-job nonfatal injuries resulting in days missed from work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nearly 75% of these injuries occurred in hospitals. The most common injury cause for RNs in hospitals was overexertion and bodily reaction, often resulting in musculoskeletal disorders.

What are musculoskeletal disorders?

Musculoskeletal disorders typically affect the following body parts:

  • Spinal discs
  • Cartilage
  • Joints
  • Tendons and ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Nerves

MSDs are often sprains (injuries to the tissues that connect bones), strains (injuries to the muscles or tissues that attach muscles and bones) and tears. These injuries affect the body’s ability to move.

What causes overexertion for RNs?

Patients cause most overexertion injuries for nurses in hospitals. explains that lifting patients is almost always dangerous, even when nurses use recommended safe lifting techniques. Researchers have discovered that the lifting process is inherently dangerous when it comes to patients for these reasons:

  • Safe lifting requires holding the object close to the body, but nurses typically stand beside a bed and cannot get close enough to the patient.
  • Bending at the knees is not enough to distribute the weight when the nurse must also lean forward. This shifts most of the force for lifting to the back.
  • Lifting a single patient may cause small tears that disrupt nutrient distribution to discs in the spine. These may not result in an immediately noticeable injury, but over time, scar tissue buildup from the tears can block nutrients and cause discs to deteriorate.

In addition to these dangers, the weight of the average patient has increased since most safe lifting protocols were developed, raising the risk of injury with each action. Hospitals that supply equipment to assist in lifting may save their nurses many short- and long-term injuries.

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