What Injuries Do Nurses Face in the Workplace? 

nurses and doctors standing

There is no question that nurses play a vital role in the health care system in the United States, from providing quality care to patients, performing a range of tests and health screenings, and partnering with physicians and other health care providers to ensure that the continuity of care is maintained. There are approximately three million registered nurses working in the United States, many of whom face a range of workplace hazards that can increase the risk of a serious personal injury. In addition to spending hours at a time on their feet, nurses do a significant amount of walking, bending, lifting, and stretching. This, combined with the fatigue that can set in after a long shift, can increase the risk of slips, trips, or falls. Nurses are also at risk for serious injuries when patients or family members become violent.  If you work as a nurse and you suffered a serious injury in the workplace, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer experienced in Workers’ Compensation claims.

What Are the Most Common Causes of Nursing-Related Injuries?

Nurses are exposed to a range of workplace hazards every day, from spills that cause the floor to become slippery; lifting patients in and out of their beds; exposure to potentially harmful or toxic substances such as drugs, radiation, and accidental needle sticks; as well as highly contagious diseases. Despite the fact that nurses are highly trained professionals who understand the importance of safety protocols, accidents do happen. The following are examples of the most common causes of injuries that nurses suffer in the workplace:

  • Overexertion and bodily reaction: These generally affect the back and ease of movement and are usually caused by excessive bending, lifting, twisting, and repetitive motions. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), close to half of all nonfatal nursing injuries in 2016 were caused by overexertion. Examples of injuries caused by overexertion include disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal disks. Oftentimes, it is necessary for nurses to take several days or more off from work, depending on the severity of the injury.
  • Slips, trips, and falls: These are the second leading type of injury that nurses suffer in the workplace. According to the National Center for Biotechnology (NCBI), the majority of slips and fall injuries are preventable if employers and staff take the necessary steps to eliminate hazards such as wet floors, debris, uneven flooring, and loose cords and ensure that the areas are well lit.
  • Violence in the workplace. Approximately 12 percent of injuries to nurses are the result of violence. However, the incidence of violence among nurses is roughly three times higher than other careers. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), violence toward nurses and other health care workers occur in the following categories:
    – Violence by a criminal who has no personal connection to the facility or its employees.
    – A patient becomes violent while he or she is receiving care.
    – Another employee becomes violent toward a nurse or other employee.
    – Violence between two people who are in a personal relationship.
  • Equipment-related injuries: These include everything from colliding with a large medical device to hitting your head on a piece of hanging equipment. These injuries also include accidental needlesticks, which can expose nurses to a wide range of serious, potentially life-threatening blood-borne infections, including hepatitis B or C and HIV. In the United States, between 600,000 and 800,000 needlestick injuries occur each year.
  • Transportation injuries: Moving patients to or from an examination room is something nurses do multiple times a day, and it can cause nurses to suffer a range of injuries, including sprains and strains and repetitive motion disorders.
  • Exposure to harmful substances: Nurses are exposed to a range of potentially harmful and hazardous substances, including chemicals, medications, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and latex. It is important that nurses understand the risks associated with these substances so that they can follow the necessary safety protocols and avoid exposure.

What Are the Most Common Types of Injuries that Impact Nurses?

In addition to the factors discussed above, many hospitals and health care facilities are understaffed, which puts additional pressure on nurses to work faster and take on additional responsibilities, which can increase the risk of the following injuries:

  • Sprains and strains: According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), these are the most common injuries among health care workers, most of which affect the shoulders and the lower back.
  • Slipped disks: The constant lifting and moving of patients can cause damage to the disks, which are the fleshy tissue between the spinal bones.
  • Infectious diseases: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that accidental needlesticks increase the risk of bloodborne diseases such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis A or B. Nurses are also exposed to airborne pathogens, as well as mucus and bodily waste that can spread serious infections.
  • Broken bones: These are often the result of violence in the workplace, either from a patient, a patient’s friend or family member, or a co-worker.
  • Head injuries: These are usually caused by a slip and fall accident or some type of violent behavior.

How Can Nursing-Related Injuries Be Prevented?

Employers and hospital administrators have a responsibility to provide a safe work environment and ensure that all safety protocols are enforced at all times. This should include taking the following steps to prevent common injuries in the workplace:

  • Incorporate ergonomics: These are devices or methods that promote job performance by addressing the individual’s physical capabilities. It is important for nurses to combine ergonomics with the proper lifting techniques to protect themselves from injury.
  • Implement solutions to prevent slip and fall injuries: The following solutions can prevent slip and fall injuries:
    – Use mechanical lifts when necessary.
    – Create facility-wide programs that target slip and fall hazards.
    – Install textured floors.
    – Require all staff to wear slip-resistant footwear.
    – Make improvements in housekeeping practices, including displaying wet floor signs; cleaning up spills immediately; and removing grease, ice, or snow from floors, sidewalks, and parking lots.
  • Create a workplace violence prevention program: Violence should never be part of a nurse’s job. Yet, it is an unfortunate reality, and all health care professionals should receive training on workplace violence. Incidences of violence should be reported and documented, and a nurse who is the victim of violence should always be supported by the employer.
  • Utilize safer equipment: The federal Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act was enacted in 2000, which provides greater protection from this preventable hazard. It requires the use of safer needles and encourages workers to provide feedback about needle-purchasing decisions.
  • Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) and safety training: Depending on the type of hazardous material to which nurses are exposed, the hospital will need to provide different PPE and ensure that the training addresses the hazard. For example, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde and artificial fragrances can trigger a serious asthma attack. Employers can buy low or no-VOC products and ensure that there is adequate indoor air circulation.

What Steps Should I Take if I Am Injured at Work?

If you are a nurse and you suffer a serious injury while on the job, you may be entitled to financial compensation by filing a Workers’ Compensation claim. A successful claim will ensure that you are compensated for all medical costs associated with the injury, including hospital visits, surgeries, follow-up doctor’s appointments, and prescription medications. In addition, you will receive a percentage of your weekly salary for the days that you are unable to work as a result of your injury. You may also be entitled to disability benefits if your injury is severe and you become disabled or are unable to return to work permanently. If your injury results in a fatality, your surviving family member may be eligible for death benefits, which cover funeral costs, medical expenses, and a percentage of your salary.

In certain circumstances, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit as well. For example, if you were assaulted by a patient’s relative while you were trying to care for the patient, you may file a third-party personal injury claim against the person who assaulted you. By filing a personal injury lawsuit, you may be able to collect significantly more money because you will be eligible for pain and suffering damages. You cannot recover pain and suffering damages with a Workers’ Compensation claim. In the state of Maryland, there is no cap on non-economic damages, which include pain and suffering. A skilled Workers’ Compensation lawyer will review your case and recommend the best legal course of action.

Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Injured Nurses

If you are a nurse and you suffered a serious workplace injury, reach out to the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. We will thoroughly review the details of your case, address all your questions and concerns, and ensure that you receive full and fair financial compensation for your injuries. We will continue to fight for you until you are completely satisfied. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.

We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.