Nursing: A Profession in Peril
A Five-Part Series On Health Care Workers Injured On The Job
The first report in this series explores the real life challenges of nurses who suffer devastating injuries while moving and lifting patients. Subsequent pieces
will concern technological and policy oriented approaches to minimize injuries;
a discussion of safe-patient handling laws that have been passed in the states;
an examination of the economic benefits realized by hospitals that have implemented
safe-patient handling programs; and an assessment of the prevalence of
implementation of recommended safe-patient handling practices across the
national health care system.
Part One: The
Health Care Industry’s Castoffs
Nurses Injured at Work Often Find Themselves Out
of Work and Suffering From Chronic Pain
June 9, 2015 —
Public Citizen reported in 2013, more
health care workers are forced off the job due to injury than workers in any
other profession. But how serious are these injuries in the long run? This
Public Citizen report documents the nature and repercussion of injuries
suffered by six nurses. All six were forced out of their job due to their
injuries and report suffering from chronic pain.
Part Two: Taking the Burden Off Their Backs
Technology and Sensible Systems Greatly Reduce Risk of
Injuries to Caregivers While Improving Patient Safety
June 16, 2015 —
Nurses are responsible for maneuvering and handling patients
in all sorts of ways. For example, transferring patients to stretchers, turning
them, lifting their limbs for wound care, positioning them to use toilets,
showering them, and more.
sheer weight of the human body renders these tasks challenging. The body’s
irregular shape and the awkward nature of building quarters enhance the
difficulty. This report briefly describes
several devices that assist in lifting, transferring and repositioning
patients, and outlines various management-directed policies needed to ensure nurses and patients are safe.
Part Three: Uplifting an Industry?
State-Based Safe Patient
Handling Laws Have Yielded Improvements But Are Not Adequately Protecting
Health Care Workers
June 24, 2015 —
There are no federal standards to protect health
care workers from musculoskeletal injuries. To fill this void, 11 states have
enacted laws in the past decade to do so. Of the eight states for which meaningful
data are available, five saw decreases ranging from 7 to 29 percent in
musculoskeletal injuries requiring days away from work since their laws took
effect. States with stronger laws that aspire to substantially reduce the need
for workers to manually lift patients have generally experienced the greatest
improvements. A model law to protect these workers would prohibit heavy lifting
altogether, except in unusual circumstances, and include disclosure
requirements to ensure compliance.
Part Four: Pay It Forward
Programs to Protect Health Care Workers Significantly Reduce Injuries and Quickly Recoup Investment Costs
July 1, 2015 —
Programs aimed at protecting workers from injuries
associated with moving, lifting or repositioning patients are so successful at
reducing injuries that the programs consistently pay for themselves within four
years by reducing providers workers’ compensation costs and other expenses.
Part Five: Little Support From Above
Health Care Industry Leaders Neither Endorse Nor Suggest Proposals to Address the Epidemic of Patient Handling Injuries
July 8, 2015 —
Although health care employees suffer more injuries than
workers in any other industry, the leading representatives of the health care
industry oppose regulatory approaches to reducing injuries while failing to
offer meaningful alternative remedies, a new Public Citizen report shows.
Meanwhile, federal regulatory agencies and representatives of actual
health care workers support more stringent safeguards.