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Moving patients inherently dangerous for nurses' backs

Workers in hospitals face many challenges. They are exposed to a wide variety of potential infections from diseases that range from common to exotic. They often work rotating schedules and overnight hours. And they have to deal with the stress of literally working in life and death situations.

But for many nurses and orderlies, the greatest danger to their health maybe from what might be dismissed as a simple task; that of moving patients in and out of beds and chairs. Yet this common task can cause severe, debilitating back and spinal injuries leaving nurses and other workers unable to function, forcing them to resort to the workers' compensation system and often leaving them out of a job.

Some Veterans Affairs hospitals have recognized this problem and have begun putting in place the mechanical systems necessary to relieve the nursing staff of this dangerous activity. Ironically, the VA hospitals have done a better job in addressing this as compared to private hospitals, where nurses may find little support from management for their injuries.

Nurses still suffer back injuries in VA hospitals, and have need of workers' compensation, but the rates of injury have been reduced. However, if you are a nurse who works for the VA system, remember that as a federal worker, your exclusive remedy for workplace injuries is through the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP).

It is important for you to inform your supervisors and managers as soon as you realize that you have suffered an injury, no matter how seemingly insignificant. One of the dangers that moving patients pose to workers is the incremental damage that occurs over time from the repetitive stress of lifting and moving patients over and over.

Npr.com, "Hospital To Nurses: Your Injuries Are Not Our Problem," Daniel Zwerdling, February 18, 2015

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