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Are nurses more likely to suffer musculoskeletal injuries?

Workers here in Chicago and across the state of Illinois routinely suffer debilitating musculoskeletal injuries. Typically, these types of injuries involve the neck, back, wrist, elbow or shoulder, and are brought on by a variety of risk factors, including tasks that require workers to take uncomfortable postures or make repetitive motions, or poorly designed workstations.

While it can be easy to dismiss the severity of these musculoskeletal injuries, they can prove to be utterly devastating and cause people to miss long periods of time away from work.

When you think of workers most likely to be affected by these musculoskeletal injuries, you probably envision those people who work in warehouses, manufacturing facilities, construction sites or other areas where manual labor is required. While this is certainly accurate, it overlooks another common site: hospitals.

If this sounds hard to believe, consider that the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that attendants, orderlies and nursing aides are stricken with more musculoskeletal injuries than any other profession. Furthermore, the BLS also found that registered nurses are more prone to these types of injuries than the average worker.

Why is this the case?

Experts indicate that a big part of the problem stems from having to lift patients on a regular basis from wheelchairs, stretchers and hospital beds. Compounding this problem is the fact that patients are now getting heavier thanks to the nation's problem with obesity.

"I'm almost fearful as a nurse of going back to taking care of patients unless I have proper equipment," said one nurse who quit the profession to take a desk job. "It's kind of sad when you have to end your nursing career because you can't physically do the job anymore because your body's so beat up."

Unfortunately, there are currently no OSHA standards in place to help protect nurses from musculoskeletal injuries despite the consistent efforts of groups like the American Nurses Association.

"When we're losing skilled folks to back injuries and other musculoskeletal injuries, that's a problem," said a spokesperson for the group. "We need a whole paradigm shift toward a true culture of safety."

Here's hoping that lawmakers recognize this problem and take the necessary steps to keep America's medical professionals safe. In the meantime, those who suffer debilitating injuries on the job should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney about their rights and their options concerning workers' compensation.

Source: ABC News, "Nurses prone to injuries with heavier patients," Sydney Lupkin, September 26, 2013

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