Top nursing injuries (and how to avoid them)

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Guest post by US nurse Kathryn NorcuttDuring her time as a nurse Kathryn helped people from all walks of life and ages. Now she leads a much less hectic life and devotes most of her free time to writing.

It’s no secret that nurses of all types are worked to the bone. With the combination of long hours as well as a seemingly endless supply of patients, nurses have their work cut out for them. For anyone on the outside, it may seem that nursing is more about giving shots and administering medication than it is about (literally) backbreaking work. The reality is that nurses and midwives have a lot of duties that involve repetitive motion, long hours on their feet and all types of heavy lifting.

The nursing injury cheat sheet. (According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. )

  • Nurses are 48% more likely to have wrist, back and/or ankle sprains or strains on the job, compared to all other occupations
  • They are 60% more likely to report chronic soreness and pain, especially in the feet and lower back
  • 53% of all injuries while nursing were reported to be due to overexertion
  • Nurses and related workers like orderlies have the third highest reported injury rate of any profession, just below truck drivers and professional movers
  • Nurses have one of the highest risks of exposure to deadly bacteria, hazardous chemicals and infectious diseases.

It comes as no surprise that we nurses face a lot of danger at work. The trick isn’t being scared of the dangers, but learning how to prevent or at least lessen their impact. Don’t let the risk of personal injury deter you from taking up a rewarding career in nursing!  

Avoiding wrist, back and ankle sprains

These are the most common nursing-related injuries and for good reason. Nurses are on their feet for hours on end and are always lifting heavy equipment and people.

To avoid back or wrist injuries while lifting you should:

  • Invest in comfortable shoes that provide optimal arch and ankle support (that are also non-slip!)
  • Regularly stretch your back and hands and give them breaks and massages
  • Keep in good physical shape, making sure that your back and leg muscles are sufficiently strong and limbre
  • Take enough time off. The number one cause of workplace injuries for nurses is overexertion. If you don’t take the time off that you need to recover, you could be putting yourself and others at risk
  • Get plenty of rest. A prime cause of overexertion is lack of sleep
  • Lift with your legs! (not your back or even your arms)
  • Seek help. At the first sign of back or limb trouble, seek medical (or paramedical) attention in order to prevent further injury. Many workplace injuries are preventable if caught in the early stages.

 Avoiding burns, cuts and infections

Nurses and midwives are lucky to be able to help people in so many ways, but the road to that help can be paved with dangerous stuff. Nurses are constantly exposed to people with dangerous and communicable illnesses, as well as sharp and hazardous devices like scalpels and needles. A simple paper cut can quite possibly turn into a bad infection for a nurse due to the fact that they are exposed to many more harmful bacteria than the average worker. To prevent those burns, cuts and infections:

  • Careful handling of needles and sharp objects, especially if the patient is suffering from a communicable disease
  • Cover all cuts and abrasions after cleaning them in order to prevent infection
  • Treat all sharp and dangerous objects with respect and care
  • Hot coffee can be a danger. Be careful when rushing with coffee or hot tea
  • Make sure that all medical equipment is properly cleaned and maintained in order to prevent breakdown and injury.

It seems like there is a lot more to becoming a nurse besides just making it through your degree and getting a job. It seems that way, because it’s true. Becoming a nurse and having a long, healthy career requires a lot more of you than just about any other occupation. You have to take it upon yourself to make more time for your own care than with other jobs. Don’t forget that even though taking care of others is extremely rewarding, it’s just as important to take care of yourself.

See previous Nurse Uncut posts about workplace injuries.

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