The U.S. Department of Labor defines a musculoskeletal disorder as an injury or disorder of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joins, cartilage, or spinal disks.
Many MSDs in the healthcare field are due in large part to overexertion related to repeated manual patient handling activities, often involving heavy manual lifting associated with transferring, and repositioning patients and working in awkward postures.
Sprains and strains are the most often reported injuries, and the shoulders and lower back are the most affected body parts.
Let’s take a look at some interesting statistics regarding back pain from the American Nurses Association:
The consequences of work-related muscular injuries among nurses is substantial. Along with the higher employer costs due to medical expenses, disability compensation, and litigation, nurse injuries also are costly in terms of chronic pain, missed work days, and employee turnover.
As many as 20% of nurses who leave direct patient care positions do so because of the risks associated with the work.
Direct and indirect costs associated with back injuries in the healthcare industry alone are estimated to be $20 billion annually.
Many healthcare employees who experience pain and fatigue, may also be less productive, less attentive, and more susceptible to further injury and may be more likely to affect the health and safety of others.
Industries where patient handling tasks are performed include:
Some examples of areas of a facility that may be identified as high-risk include:
Early stage: pain may disappear after a rest away from work.
Intermediate stage: body part aches and feels weak soon after starting work and lasts until well after finishing work.
Advanced stage: body part aches and feels weak, even at rest. Sleep may be affected and light tasks are difficult on days off.
You should NOT ignore signs and symptoms of MSDs. Employees should report any pain to their manager or supervisor and seek treatment immediately to prevent further pain.
The video on this page demonstrates patient handling tasks that put the nurse at risk of developing MSDs. The video discusses anatomy and risks to the lower back, the shoulder, the wrist, and the knee.
Given the increasingly hazardous biomechanical demands on caregivers today, it is clear the healthcare industry must rely on technology to make patient handling and movement safe.
Patient transfer and lifting devices are key components of an effective program to control the risk of injury to patients and staff involved in lifting, transferring, repositioning or movement of patients.
Essential elements of such a program include:
The use of assistive patient handling equipment and devices is beneficial not only for healthcare staff, but also for patients. Explaining planned lifting procedures before lifting and enlisting their cooperation and engagement can only increase patient safety and comfort, as well as enhance their sense of dignity.
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