Nurses usually enter into a medical career because of their desire to help those who are injured or ill. But who takes care of the nurses when they suffer injuries on the job?
A Unique Culture: Putting The Patient First
Nurses are often so focused on patient care that they continue on with their work, even when they themselves are suffering and in pain. Unfortunately, this dedication means that in many cases, the nurse doesn’t get the care that they need.
This was the case for one nurse who was helping to lift a 300-pound patient who had fallen. While helping to get the patient back in bed, she felt a “pop” in her back. Putting her patient first, she continued to work the entire shift despite growing back pain.
Hours after her shift had ended, her husband found her on the floor of their bedroom, unable to walk. She now has a plate and several screws in her spine due to a herniated disc that occurred while she was lifting the patient. She is unable to return to her job because of the severity of her injury.
Top Injuries Suffered By Nurses
The very nature of their job exposes nurses to specific types of risks. These risks lead to injuries such as:
Nurses frequently suffer from back, wrist, shoulder, knee, and ankle strains while lifting patients, or during a slip and fall accident in the hospital. In some instances, they suffer even more severe injuries like damage to the vertebrae which can mean even young nurses are unable to return to their job.
Sadly, nurses often become the victims of violent crimes which can also result in an injury to the musculoskeletal system. Not every patient is willing, particularly those whose mental state is altered due to illness or injury. During the course of treatment, many patients become scared and lash out, not realizing that they have injured those that are trying to help them.
Patients are often hospitalized with severe bacterial infections. Exposure to this bacteria can lead to serious skin infections, blood infections, and respiratory infections.
Needles are used to administer drugs, draw blood, or place catheters. Whenever a nurse is pricked with a needle that is no longer sterile, there is a risk of exposure to any communicable disease or infection that the patient the needle was previously used on may have. The nurse may have to return several times over a period of months for testing to be sure that they aren’t ill.
Nurses are exposed to numerous hazardous chemicals during their shift. In a study performed by Physicians For Social Responsibility named “Hazardous Chemicals In Health Care: A Snapshot of Chemicals in Doctors and Nurses”, researchers discovered that all of the participants had “at least 24 individual chemicals in their body”.
The study concluded that hospitals and employees must work together to:
- reduce exposure
- protect the patient, nurses, and doctors
- participate in governmental and institutional programs
Any one of these injuries can require thousands of dollars in medical care, turning nurses into patients.
The High Cost Of Nursing Injuries
Statistics have shown that the average workers’ compensation claim payment for nurses is $15,860. That doesn’t include the money that is lost in wages by the nearly 25% of all injured nurses who require sick leave in order to heal. It also doesn’t address the nearly 50% of all nurses whose workers’ comp claims are completely denied, and who are left to fend for themselves.
In fact, it it is more financially beneficial for hospitals to work at preventing nursing injuries then it is to replace those who are unable to return to work. If the injury the nurse sustains is career ending, it costs the hospital an average of $27,000 to $103,000 to replace them.
Considering the large amounts of money that injuries to nurses cost hospitals every year in both insurance premiums and replacement costs, many wonder why more money hasn’t been invested in training and equipment that would help prevent many from being hurt.
Infographic: The High Cost Of Nursing And Healthcare Injuries