When healing hurts: Injuries to healthcare workers are too common

Hospitals are meant to heal, but they can create dangerous conditions for workers.

Most people enter a health care setting, such as a clinic or hospital, to recover from an illness or injury. However, while that environment may give patients a chance to heal, it often puts those responsible for patient care at risk.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), hospitals are one of the most dangerous places to work. In 2011, American hospitals reported an average 6.8 illnesses or injuries per 100 workers, nearly twice the rate for private industry in general.

What makes hospitals so dangerous for the workers? According to OSHA, it’s a combination of three factors:

  1. Unique risks – Hospital workers must manage safety risks like lifting and repositioning patients, needle sticks and potential violence.
  2. Culture – Hospital workers are under pressure not to harm any patients, even if it sometimes means sustaining injury.
  3. Unpredictability – Hospitals are not assembly lines. Every day, workers must make split-second decisions with unpredictable outcomes.

Nursing work is hard on the musculoskeletal system

Nurses are particularly vulnerable to musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. These disorders affect parts of the body associated with movement, such as the bones, muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves. Common MSDs among nurses and other healthcare workers include:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Ligament sprain
  • Muscle/tendon strain
  • Ruptured or herniated disc
  • Tendonitis
  • Tension neck syndrome

If the worst happens, know your rights

If you are injured on the job, whether from a single traumatic incident or gradual wear and tear on your body over time, it is critical that you report your injury to your employer in a timely manner. This is important to ensure you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits or other sources of compensation for the medical bills, lost wages and other expenses that often accompany a workplace injury.

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