4 Big Ways to Prevent Ergonomic Injury Among Nurses
by Rynae Golke
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nurse aides place third in the nation for the number of work-related injuries and illnesses. Although nurses are positioned slightly better, they aren’t far behind. They fall in 10th place and account for a significant 5% of all work-related injuries and illnesses nationwide. The most common injuries suffered by nurses include musculoskeletal disorders, needle sticks, slips and falls, and injuries as a result of patient violence.
Although the statistics are alarming, a proactive approach to safety in the healthcare field can change the statistics. Many facilities charge their Safety Director or Safety Officer with the task of decreasing or eliminating injuries among nurses on their payroll. While the person in this role can drive the process, every employee in the building has a responsibility to ensure the workplace is safe. In order for the initiative to be successful, the entire company must be personally invested in and dedicated to safety.
Without further ado, here are four big ways to change the statistics in a nursing facility:
#1 Educate, educate, educate.
Adults are more likely to support and stay engaged in initiatives when they understand why it matters. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities can increase employee buy-in by providing employees with the information they need to believe in the cause. When it comes to nurse safety, this includes:
- How to operate equipment safely and according to manufacturer’s guidelines and what the consequences might be if these guidelines are not followed
- How many nurses are injured annually nationwide and what injuries or risks caused these injuries
- How many nurses are injured on a daily, weekly, monthly, and annual basis in their own workplace and the leading causes of those injuries
- What measures the facility has taken to ensure their safety
- Safety events that have happened in the industry lately and the outcome of those events (transmission of disease, death, etc.)
#2 Involve nurses early.
Research shows that adults are more likely to buy into change when they are involved in the analysis, planning, and implementation of the change. Hospitals can take advantage of this statistic to improve safety for nurses by creating a task force comprised of the people who will be affected by the change. By bringing together a group of nurses, aides, and leaders to identify the greatest risks in the organization, brainstorm potential solutions and challenges, and work toward implementation together, nurses become invested in the initiative and likelihood of acceptance of the change is dramatically increased.
#3 Complete a root cause analysis.
After every injury that occurs, work with the employee to find out what caused the injury. And that includes what really caused the injury. Consider this example:
A nurse injures her back while providing wound care. She cites the cause of the injury as having to bend over for an extended period of time to provide care.
Through root cause analysis, the following questions can be answered:
- Was the department adequately staffed at the time of the injury? Did understaffing cause the injury?
- Can the bed be raised? Did inadequate equipment cause the injury?
- Did the nurse take the time to raise the bed? Did feeling rushed cause the injury? Did failure to follow procedure cause the injury?
- Does the patient’s care plan require the help of more than one staff member? Was the patient’s care plan followed? Is the patient’s care plan up to date? Does the patient’s care plan need to be updated to prevent further injury?
- Was the patient positioned correctly for the treatment? Did failure to position the patient appropriately cause the injury?
- Was the environment safe? Which environmental factors contributed to the injuries?
- Was the staff member and supporting staff adequately trained? What training might prevent further injuries?
- Did the staff have access to resources that could have prevented the injury? Which tools or equipment could prevent further injury?
- Does the nurse have a manageable patient load?
- What measure can be taken to prevent injuries like this from occurring again?
By taking the time to evaluate every incident in an effort to identify the true root cause, nursing staff and leaders become invested in identifying, creating, and complying with long-term solutions.
#4 Invest in safety.
According to OSHA, employers pay an estimated $1 billion per week in direct workman’s compensation costs plus an undefined amount of money in indirect costs. Yet spending on safety initiatives remains a sticking point for many employers. While safety is not a revenue-generating department, it is a cost-cutting department. Employers who invest in safety see a high return on that investment.
In the healthcare field, this might include purchasing electric lifts for patients, upgrading patient beds, modifying the nurses’ station, purchasing ergonomic chairs, increasing staff to decrease workload, and more.
- Make sure your employees know why they’re doing what they’re doing;
- Include the employees affected when strategizing for safety;
- Always complete a root cause analysis after any incident, whether it’s serious or not; and
- Invest in training, equipment, and salaries if they protect your employees in the long run.