Hospitals are one of the most dangerous places to work, with average rates at about 6.8 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time workers - almost twice the rate for private industry workers as a whole.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports hospital workers recorded approximately 59,000 work-related injuries and illnesses that resulted in lost days of work. However, this figure doesn't capture the number of those who suffer injuries and are placed on modified duty. That means we're really only getting part of the picture, and potentially only a fraction of the hospital workers who are applying for workers' compensation.
In Scranton, nurses with the Pennsylvania Association of Skilled Nurses and Allied Professionals have been protesting better working conditions - including unreasonable workloads and under-staffing. That's according to The Citizens Voice, which reported that the Geisinger Community Medical Center plans to add some 2,000 new staffers to its facilities this year. However of those, only about 150 are nurses. Heavy workloads and under-staffing can contributed to nursing work-related injuries. In particular, back injuries - which are an industry epidemic - may be more likely to occur in a facility that is understaffed because there aren't enough people to help with proper patient lifting.
NPR in 2015 examined the issue of injuries to nurses and workers' compensation issues with its special series, "Injured Nurses." Citing BLS statistics, it was reported that more than 35,000 nurses suffer back injuries every year. Orderlies and nursing assistants suffer back injuries and musculoskeletal injuries at a rate that is three times higher than that of construction workers.
Some of the hazards unique to hospitals that make it such a high-risk atmosphere for nurses include:
- Working one-on-one closely with the public. While most people there desire care, they may be confused or impaired. Some may be there involuntarily. The risk of violence is ever-present, as is the possibility of needle sticks. However, dealing with patients who suffer limited mobility is perhaps one of the biggest dangers. Lifting, repositioning and transferring patients is the top of cause of back injuries.
- Unique ethical culture. In health care, those who provide care feel an ethical responsibility to do no harm to patients. In that vein, many will prioritize the patient's safety and well-being over their own.
- High-pressure environment. Nurses often have to think critically in unpredictable situations, with people's lives hanging on a split-second decision. That kind of environment often doesn't leave much time to think about every single work safety concern. That's why it's so imperative that hospitals and other health care facilities have solid safety procedures already outlined.
Nearly half of all hospital worker injuries resulting from days away from work are the result of overexertion or bodily reaction, such as bending, lifting or reaching.
Nurses also face an increasing risk of these types of injuries related to patient lifting and moving for two reasons:
- The healthcare workforce is aging (as is our overall population) and older workers may be more prone to injuries.
- The obesity epidemic throughout the U.S. means there is an increasing challenge when it comes to safe patient handling.
If you are a nurse who has been injured on-the-job in Scranton, our skilled workers' compensation attorneys can help.