What Are The Most Common Patient Manual Handling Injuries?

Nurses and nurses’ aides often develop injuries because of the physical demands of their jobs, such as manually lifting and repositioning patients. Safe patient handling is paramount for the patient and the caregiver to avoid musculoskeletal injuries. If you’re a healthcare professional who cares for patients, it’s crucial to be aware of the most common patient manual handling injuries and how to protect yourself and your patients. You also should be aware of the workers’ compensation benefits available to you if you sustain a patient-handling injury.

Keep reading to learn more about the risk factors for patient manual handling injuries and how to prevent them. Contact a Raleigh workers’ compensation lawyer if you have a work-related injury and have questions about a workers’ compensation claim.

You can get a free consultation by calling (800) 434-8399 or filling out the form for us to quickly reach out to you and assist you.

Types of Patient Manual Handling Injuries

The types of manual handling injuries that a nurse or nurse’s aide can suffer vary depending on the work environment and job duties. Whether you work in a hospital, a rehabilitation facility, or a nursing home, proper patient handling practices are critical to avoid some of the common patient manual handling injuries. These include:

  • Back injuries – Back injuries often occur when nurses and nursing assistants work in awkward positions and try to manually lift or transfer a patient from a chair to a bed. Patient handling movements can exacerbate a minor musculoskeletal injury, resulting in a more significant injury.
  • Neck injuries – Healthcare workers may suffer a neck strain when trying to transfer a patient who is too heavy to lift alone, resulting in tears in the neck ligaments, muscles, and tendons.
  • Shoulder injuries – Nurses and nursing assistants are at risk of shoulder injuries, especially rotator cuff injuries, due to improper patient handling techniques. The shoulders and back are the areas of the body where injuries occur most often.
  • Hand injuries – Nurses and aides are at risk of strains or fractures if they do not follow safe patient handling procedures.
  • Foot injuries – If a nurse or aide loses their grip on a patient, the patient may slip from the nurse’s hands and crush their feet, resulting in fractures or bruises.
  • Hernias – The strain of lifting or transferring a heavy patient can put pressure on the caregiver’s stomach and abdominal muscles, leading to a hernia. These painful injuries may require surgery to repair.
  • Musculoskeletal Disorders – Musculoskeletal disorders are a major cause of injury to healthcare workers. These conditions are typically caused by overexertion when manually handling patients. These work-related injuries may take a long time to develop.

About 42% of nurses report being injured at work at least once a year, according to the publication American Nurse. Interestingly, the World Health Organization reports that 72% of nurses suffer from non-specific chronic low back pain. Healthcare workers who sustain workplace injuries related to patient handling may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, including paid medical benefits and partial reimbursement of lost wages while they are unable to work.

Risk Factors for Patient Handling Injuries

The American Nurse Journal identified certain risk factors for patient-handling injuries, including:

  • More consecutive shift days
  • Longer shift duration
  • Pre-existing health conditions
  • The age of the nurse
  • Fatigue
  • Increased numbers of critically ill patients

Due to long work shifts and understaffing,  overexertion is a high risk for many nurses and nursing aides in hospitals, rehab centers, and long-term care facilities. The increasing weight of patients due to the obesity epidemic compounds the risk of injury to healthcare workers who perform repeated manual patient-handling tasks.

How to Prevent Patient Manual Handling Injuries

Although the nature of the job of nursing carries risks due to its physical demands, there are some ways to reduce the risks involved in patient manual handling, including:

  • Using the appropriate powered lifting equipment, if available.
  • Removing any hazards in the area of the transfer.
  • Ensuring the floor is not slippery, and there is adequate lighting.
  • Using personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Performing manual handling according to the established procedures.

The importance of using proper body mechanics cannot be overstated. For example, bending the knees before picking up a patient instead of bending from the waist can prevent unnecessary strain on the lower back. In addition to proper positioning, consider using patient-handling equipment such as mechanically assisted lifting devices, including ceiling, floor-based, or stand-up lifts, which can reduce stress on the back.

In addition to these tips, keep the following recommendations in mind for preventing injuries for the following specific tasks:

  • Lifting patients – Consider wearing a back belt or brace to protect your back when lifting patients, or use available lift devices.
  • Transferring patients – When transferring a patient from a bed to a wheelchair, make sure to raise (or lower) the bed to a safe height, lower the guard rails, and place the wheelchair next to the bed at a 45-degree angle, ensuring the brakes are engaged before initiating the transfer.
  • Transferring patients – As you assist the patient, communicate what you are doing and what you intend to do so the patient is aware of what to expect. This can help avoid any sudden movements by the patient that may affect your ability to move them safely.

Our Attorneys Can Help with a Workers’ Comp Claim Related to a Patient Handling Injury

If you are injured on your job as a nurse, nurse’s aide, or nursing home worker, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages related to your injury.

A manual handling injury can result in unexpected medical bills and time off work while you heal and recuperate. Luckily, when an employee in North Carolina is injured at work, they can file a workers’ compensation claim to recover benefits. Workers’ compensation is no-fault insurance, which means benefits are available regardless of who is at fault for the employee’s injury.

Most employers in North Carolina are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to provide benefits to injured employees. However, some employers or their workers’ compensation insurance carriers may try to dispute workers’ compensation claims. A Raleigh workers’ compensation lawyer can help you understand your rights if you have a work-related injury. A lawyer can keep track of relevant filing deadlines so you do not lose your right to pursue workers’ comp benefits.

Seek an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in North Carolina

The Raleigh workers’ compensation attorneys at Hardison & Cochran provide clients with effective, compassionate legal representation after work-related injuries. Our attorneys focus exclusively on assisting injured people with workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Our law firm has three attorneys who are Board-Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation law in North Carolina. Our Raleigh workers’ compensation lawyers can help you pursue all the workers’ compensation benefits available.

Contact our law firm today for a free, confidential consultation with one of our dedicated workers’ compensation lawyers in North Carolina.

About the Author

Managing partner Benjamin T. Cochran oversees the operation of Hardison & Cochran Attorneys at Law in addition to representing individual clients in cases involving workers’ compensation and personal injury law.

A lifelong North Carolinian, Cochran knew from his high-school days in High Point that he wanted to be an attorney. He received a B.A. degree in economics and African-American studies from the University of North Carolina in 1999 and then enrolled at the Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University.

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