Working as a nurse in a hospital setting is a physically demanding job. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, nurses have a significant risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders. One of the most common musculoskeletal complications among health care workers is back pain.
One reason that so many nurses suffer from back injuries is from lifting and transferring patients. While this is an inherent hazard of being a nurse, there are some steps you can take to reduce the threat of suffering a career-ending back injury.
1. Get assistance
Do not try to lift patients with your sheer strength, especially when you are handling particularly heavy patients. Use lift devices and transfer equipment whenever necessary. Do not be afraid to ask for help from nursing aides or your fellow nurses.
2. Use good techniques
It is crucial to use proper body mechanics whenever you lift or transfer patients, no matter how heavy they are. When you are lifting, make sure you bend at your knees and use your legs instead of your back. For transfers, utilize transfer boards. Try to keep your patients as close to your midsection as possible. Keep your back in a neutral position by hinging from your hips.
3. Stay in shape
You are less likely to get injured if you are in shape. Do your best to maintain flexibility, muscle strength and a healthy weight. You may want to talk to a physical therapist about good exercises.
4. Request proper training and technology
Of course, the hospital that employs you is responsible for ensuring you are working in a safe environment. Advocate for safety equipment such as portable lifts, motorized ceiling lifts and transfer technology. Ask if your hospital has anyone on staff who specializes in ergonomics or injury-prevention.
Hurting your back at work may cause you to take a few days off at best or even put a stop to your career at worst.