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 — As 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. The 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.