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Tips for Nurses: Preventing Back Injury

Nursing is one of the riskiest occupations for work-related back injuries.  Because a nurse’s job involves a lot of stretching, bending, lifting, and transferring patients, nurses are more likely to experience severe back injuries than other types of workers.
Majority of hospitals in Europe and the United States have adopted a "No Manual Lifting" policy after studies on injury prevention showed that tasks such as lifting and transferring patients account for a large percentage of work-related injuries among nurses.

In the Philippines, however, not every healthcare institution has the capacity to implement a back injury prevention program and invest millions on modern mechanical lifting equipment to protect their nurses’ health.  

And so mitigate this risk, here are some practical tips on how to prevent back injuries in the workplace:

  • Observe proper body mechanics.  Sure, we learned this in nursing school but it won’t hurt to review on the topic again so you’ll remember to maintain a wide base of support and maintain proper body alignment.
  • Use proper equipment.  Use a draw sheet when moving patients up in bed or a slide board when transferring the patient from the bed to another flat surface.  The use of assistive devices such as rails, gait belts and walkers when transferring patients will greatly reduce the risk of back injury.
  • Organize a lift team.  Always ask for help when transferring patients.  When moving or repositioning patients, the rule of thumb is never lift more than you can.
  • Strengthen your back.  Activities as simple as walking, swimming, and running will help you greatly in strengthening your back and keeping you in shape.  If you are overweight, consider losing the extra pounds because the excess weight puts additional strain on your spine and will make back pain even worse.

Work-related back injuries may be fairly common among nurses but it is an issue that can be addressed.  Through re-education , adequate staffing,  and the use of modern mechanical lifting devices, it  is preventable.

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