Research shows nurses face some of the worst work-related injury rates

Nurses are more likely to sustain overexertion injuries than most professionals; they may also face an above-average risk of other health complications.

Nurses who work in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities play an undeniably important role in protecting the health of people in Harrisburg. Sadly, these professionals often face personal health challenges due to the nature of their jobs. Statistics show that nursing professionals suffer an above-average risk of various types of work-related injury or illness, from exertion-based injuries to depression.

Physical burdens

Nursing jobs can be highly physical. Many nurses regularly take on strenuous tasks, such as repositioning or moving patients. The New York Times notes that nurses typically work 12-hour shifts, which worsens the physical burden. According to the same source, three-quarters of nurses have suffered a sprain or strain, along with associated discomfort, in the workplace. Statistically, almost half of all nurses experience lower back injuries or pain in a 12-month period.

Research also shows that people in nursing professions face a higher likelihood of overexertion injuries, or musculoskeletal injuries that are typically associated with repeated trauma or sudden exertion. Based on 2011 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the following facts on healthcare workers and overexertion injuries:

  • Hospital workers experience twice the rate of these injuries as other workers.
  • Compared to the general working population, nursing home workers are three times more likely to sustain overexertion injuries.
  • Ambulance workers have the greatest risk of all, with exertion injury rates six times greater than the rates that average workers experience.

Although these statistics focus on healthcare workers in general, the CDC notes that nurses, aides and orderlies suffered from more pain or back injuries resulting in missed work than other healthcare workers.

Other stress factors

Nurses may face various other health problems in addition to strains, sprains and other physical injury. Fox News states that healthcare shift workers are at a greater risk for stress, diabetes, heart disease and sleep disruptions. The New York Times reports that recent research shows the rate of depression among nurses is double the rate among the general population.

Due to external factors, these problems may only become worse during coming years. According to the CDC, a shortage of nursing professionals is expected to persist for at least a decade, with as many as 260,000 positions unfilled in 2025, leaving working nurses overburdened. Additionally, with obesity becoming more prevalent in the U.S., the risk of healthcare workers experiencing physical overexertion injuries is not trivial.

Securing workers' compensation

Under the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act, work-related injuries, illnesses and diseases are compensable if they occur during the performance of an employee's job duties. Workplace injuries are not compensable if an employee sustains them intentionally, while violating the law or while intoxicated; otherwise, fault is not considered. An injured employee may be entitled to compensation for lost wages or medical care, along with benefits for partial or full disablement.

Injured employees must act promptly to protect their rights. Employees must notify employers of injury within 120 days of the date of injury, except in the case of occupational diseases; employees must claim these within three years of the onset date. After these deadlines, work-related injuries are not compensable.

Nurses who have suffered workplace injuries in Pennsylvania should consider meeting with a workers' compensation attorney before filing the claim. An attorney can help a nurse analyze the long-term consequences or costs of the injury and pursue adequate compensation.