Thank you for your attention to the problem of back injury from patient lifting discussed in the Nurse Safety Topic. Health care workers (90% women) are among the workers who most frequently suffer work-related, disabling back injury (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004). Though research proves that lifting patients is hazardous, and that mechanical lift equipment could prevent most nurse back injury, many nurses are still required to lift patients, and are often terminated when disabled by the lifting. Back injury may be the single largest contributor to the shortage, with perhaps 12% of nurses leaving, or fired, each year due to back injury (Owen, 1989).
Using proper body mechanics and "getting help" in lifting patients to prevent back injuries are myths which cannot protect nurses when lifting dangerous amounts of weight. Understanding the physiological effect on the spine from repetitive hazardous lifting (generally not taught in nursing school) would unveil to nurses the exploitation of manual patient lifting. Such knowledge would empower nurses to demand safe lift equipment with strict No Lift policies; to work toward "No Manual Lift for Healthcare" legislation; and to negotiate for Permanent Light Duty for nurses disabled by patient lifting, yet who wish to continue nursing. It is time to take the load off the backs of nurses and to implement technology designed for the task.
Anne Hudson, RN, BSN, BIN (Back Injured Nurse)
Work Injured Nurses’ Group USA <www.wingusa.org>
Coos Bay, OR
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2004). Case and demographic characteristics for work-related injuries and illnesses involving days away from work: Supplemental tables 2002. Retrieved June 13, 2005, from http://stats.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/osh/case/ostb1267.pdf
Owen, B.D. (1989). The magnitude of low-back problems in nursing. Western Journal Of Nursing Research, 11(2), 234-242.