While many hospitals, including those in South Jersey, have taken steps to provide healthier work environments such as programs to help nursing staff avoid burnout, there is one area where every hospital seems to come up short: patient lifting practices. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, every year, nurses suffer from 35,000 back and musculoskeletal injuries, mostly due to lifting patients.
In general, nurses are at a higher risk of suffering a work-related injury compared to factory and construction workers as well as others in jobs that that physically demanding. Unfortunately, even if you use proper lifting techniques, you are still at risk of a back injury. In fact, the lifting process itself has certain dangers that are virtually impossible to avoid.
When you pick something up that is close to your body, it is generally easier than picking up something of the same weight that is at a distance. While lifting another human being is typically difficult, it is much more so when you have to reach over the side of a bed in order to do so. Even if you follow all the lifting protocols, your body is still straining in a way that it is not meant to.
From an early age, you probably learned that it is always best to lift with your knees. Unfortunately, this movement will change how your body distributes the weight. When you bend with your knees while reaching across a patient’s bed, most of the force will be concentrated in the disks of your back. This causes strain which could eventually result in a severe injury.
Every time you lift a patient, small tears can develop in the plates that are responsible for ensuring the disks receive the nutrients they need. As you continue to perform this act, the tears can become worse and scar tissue can develop. This will disrupt the flow of nutrients and cause the disks in your back to wear out faster. Due to this, you will be much more prone to a back injury.
The only way to really avoid a back injury when lifting a patient is to use a machine. Unfortunately, many hospitals still do not have enough of these machines in order to protect the entire nursing staff. If you have suffered a work-related back injury while lifting a patient, you might be able to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.