You don't need any study or survey to tell you that your job is stressful, both physically and mentally. Nevertheless, the American Nurses Association reports that the nursing profession ranks fifth among jobs that place workers in danger of strains and sprains. Even construction workers and employees at distribution centers have a lower risk.
Among all the injuries you worry about, certainly your backache is one that concerns you. You probably hear your colleagues complain about their aching backs, too. In fact, you may have nursing friends in Nebraska who have left the profession because of the physical toll of the job or because they suffered a work-related injury.
If you wake up in pain in the morning, you may review the previous day trying to remember when it was that you strained your back. It could have been any of these activities or others:
- You improperly lifted a patient.
- You twisted while transferring a patient.
- You helped a patient sit up from a supine position.
- You lunged to keep a patient from falling.
Even with the improvement in ergonomic methods to help you lift and transfer patients, there is no way to avoid back strain altogether. You probably attended a workshop or took a class to learn proper techniques for doing your job with minimal damage to your spine, but you can't predict every movement you will need to make in the course of the day.
Change for the better
There are little things you can do every day that add up to big protection for your back, for example:
- Keep your weight down and your body in shape.
- Wear high-quality work shoes that support you well and absorb the shock of excess walking.
- Speak up for better equipment that will carry the burden for you.
Many hospitals are happy to provide their nurses with motorized ceiling lifts and other forms of advanced transfer technology to prevent nurses from suffering workplace injuries. In fact, some nurses decide to find jobs at those generous hospitals rather than living with chronic back pain because the hospital where they currently work won't spring for lift equipment.
The most drastic action you can take to protect your back is to find different work. This may not entail leaving the nursing profession completely, but you may find satisfaction with less risk if you move to a department that places fewer demands on your body. Of course, the moment you feel you have injured your back, you would benefit from taking the appropriate steps to obtain the compensation and medical treatment you deserve.