From long, physically demanding hours to contact with biohazardous materials, registered nurses face challenges on the job daily that may endanger their own health. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, RNs are at a greater-than-average risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. In 2016 alone, nurses experienced over 19,000 nonfatal injuries or illnesses that resulted in forced time away from work.
In recent years, more and more nurses have come forward about physical and emotional abuse from violent patients with substance or mental health issues, as well. Here are some of the most common types of injuries that RNs encounter in the workplace.
Musculoskeletal injuries from physical strain
Nurses often spend much of the day on their feet and need to perform a variety of physical tasks that involve bending, twisting and lifting—particularly when assisting in moving a patient. Unsurprisingly, nearly half of nursing injuries that require recovery time away from work are the result of overexertion that causes soft tissue or musculoskeletal damage. Mechanical assistive devices, such as transfer belts, slide sheets and lift slings, are essential tools to help prevent such injuries.
Slips, trips and falls
Wet floors, wandering cords and disorganized equipment are other leading causes of accidents, accounting for about a quarter of incidents. OSHA recommends strict guidelines for care facilities about clearly marking hazards, eliminating clutter and providing non-slip floor mats and sufficient lighting to prevent such safety risks.
In addition to used needles, hazardous chemicals and radiation, nurses come in frequent contact with infectious diseases such as MRSA, HIV, hepatitis B and tuberculosis. Personal protective attire and specialized gear are crucial to preventing infection and should fit snugly, yet comfortably.
For RNs, the incidence of violent events resulting in injury in 2016 was nearly three times the rate of any other occupation. Unfortunately, OSHA also reports that nurses often do not officially report such incidents.
All too often, RNs accept these hazards as part of the job of providing a critical service. However, nurses must recognize the importance of their employer providing a reasonably safe environment for workers and their patients.