Did you know that the chances of suffering sprains and strains if you are in the nursing profession are higher than for construction workers and materials handlers? The most vulnerable body parts of nurses are their backs, and a significant percentage of nurses either consider leaving their jobs or actually do so due to the physical demands required of them.
If you are a nurse in a hospital setting, you are in the most physically demanding area of this occupation, especially if you work in trauma. Constantly tending to patients during every shift creates a myriad of opportunities for back injuries to potentially occur, usually due to lifting or transferring patients in an improper manner.
How can you limit the damage to your back?
You may not be able to completely prevent injury risks to your back as a nurse, but you might be able to prolong your career by taking some precautions:
- Mind the mechanics of your back -- Orthopedic specialists say you must never use your back like a hinge. Depending on what you have to lift, you must use your knees and hips instead. You should also try to avoid transferring patients without the assistance of another person and transfer boards -- although in emergencies you might not have a choice. Your midsection is your center of gravity, and you should hold anything or anybody you lift close to your midsection while trying to keep the natural curve of your spine.
- Pay attention to your health -- Stay healthy because if you carry extra body weight, it might hamper your flexibility and diminish your muscle strength. Learn proper lifting techniques and exercise to improve your trunk stability. This will not eliminate injuries altogether but might limit their severity.
- Take care of your feet - High-quality, comfortable shoes are essential because shock absorbers can limit your back stress during the many hours of walking and standing on hard floors.
- Choose your employer wisely -- Some hospitals utilize technology, such as portable lifts and motorized lifts mounted on the ceilings, that limits the physical demands on nurses. The chances are good that such a facility also has injury prevention programs and ergonomic work environments that can prolong your career.
- Consider a different specialty -- You might have chosen to work in trauma because it seemed exciting when you first started nursing. However, nothing should stop you from switching to another department where the chances of back strain is significantly lower. The fast pace and natural body tension when you have to work with patients who are mostly unconscious, compared to the much calmer atmosphere of the cath lab -- for example -- can substantially benefit your back.
If you are living with the consequences of excessive back strain from years of nursing, you are likely facing high medical bills for ongoing treatment. You have the right to pursue financial assistance through the Kansas workers' compensation insurance program. However, proving that injuries that developed over years are work related can be challenging, and you might benefit during this trying time from the support and guidance of an experienced workers' compensation attorney.