Nurses are arguably some of the most compassionate and caring people on the planet. Not only do they work hard each day taking care of patients and assisting doctors, but they are often the person that patients receive comfort from. However, nurses frequently find that they become the patient after they are injured on the job.
Facts About The Dangers Of Nursing
Nursing isn’t just about handing out medications and changing sheets. The fact is that nurses are exposed to wide variety of dangerous situations on a daily basis. This typically includes:
- Exposure to infectious diseases through patient contact or contact with needles and other materials used by patients. Of these diseases, Hepatitis B is the most commonly contracted infectious disease by workers.
- Exposure to toxins such as ethylene oxide which is commonly used to sterilize instruments.
- Exposure to radiation. Any nurse who routinely works with patients undergoing x-rays can be exposed to high levels of radiation if not given the correct protective equipment or if the x-ray machine is malfunctioning.
- Violent attacks. Sometimes, while suffering from certain medical conditions, patients become confused and afraid. As a result, they can lash out at those who are trying to care for them because they believe that they may be in danger.
- Over-lifting. The human body can only do so much and while many nurses are very strong, it is easy to become injured while lifting any heavy object.
Injuries Commonly Suffered By Nurses
Given the hazards faced by nurses every day, it isn’t difficult to believe that a large percentage of nurses become injured at work every day. Injuries frequently include:
Lifting heavy objects quickly and without assistance can lead to repetitive stress injuries, spinal injuries, damage to the muscles in the back, and other musculoskeletal disorders.
Lifting a heavy patient, slips and & falls, and the victims of violent attacks can all suffer from damage to the muscles in the back as well as the spine. These injuries are serious and can be career ending.
Infections don’t have to come from something as invasive as a needle stick or cut with a scalpel. Patients can spread disease through the air or even just a simple touch.
Nurses hit their heads on the job every day. If the impact is hard enough, it can cause concussions, brain hemorrhage, and even tissue death. If treatment isn’t immediately sought, the consequence can be life altering.
Broken wrists, legs, and arms are all possible for nurses.
Options Available For Nurses Who Have Been Hurt
The first question most nurses who have been hurt on the job ask is “How will I pay for my own medical bills?”. In most cases, the injured nurse has two options:
File For Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation insurance is required by law for most employers. This insurance exists to protect both the employer and employee. Once a claim has been filed, the employee is prevented from pursuing a lawsuit against the employer. In return, the insurance company should cover the costs of any medical treatments relating to the injury sustained.
File A Personal Injury Lawsuit
Even though an injured employee can’t file a personal injury lawsuit against their employer, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t another party whose negligence resulted in the accident that caused them harm. A personal injury lawsuit can cover the full loss of wages and may even compensate the victim for other losses such as pain and suffering.
Why Consult An Attorney?
Many believe that filing for workers’ compensation will be enough to cover their losses. They also believe that the process of filing this claim and then receiving the compensation will be easy and straightforward. What a large percentage of those who apply for workers’ compensation find, is that there are unexpected obstacles that can get in the way of getting what they need.
So many nurses have been denied the compensation they need that NPR has done several reports on the problems faced by healthcare workers, including one which told the story about a nurse, who after more than 20 years of working from the same hospital, became seriously injured while lifting a patient.
“The second she [the patient] grabbed on, almost instantaneously I felt like hot tar was just going down my spine and into my butt.” reported the nurse. She also indicated that by the time she got home, her husband had to carry her into her house. The very next day she reported the pain in her back to her supervisor. Within a few months, she needed to have a surgeon perform a lumbar interbody fusion during which a plate cage was placed on her spine to stabilize it. As she was recovering in her hospital room, an HR rep from the hospital walked into her room and handed her a job termination notice.
The hospital then contested her claim, stating that she had actually hurt her back while lifting a casserole out of the oven. She had to take them to court in order to get the compensation that she deserved.
Sadly, this nurse’s story is not unique and every day, nurses find that in order to get what they so desperately need, they have to consult with an attorney who can defend their legal rights.