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Nursing—a profession that has the potential for serious injuries

Many people fulfill a life-long desire to enter the nursing profession, and they embrace the opportunity to help patients.

However, the job has its drawbacks and among those is the potential for serious injuries that increases over time.

What the job involves

On any given day, registered nurses (RN) spend time walking, stretching and bending. They come into contact with hazardous drugs, radiation, needlesticks and the chemicals used in many types of cleaning tasks. They also sustain illnesses and injuries as a direct result of handling patients. For example, in 2016, as referenced by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 40% of all RN illnesses and injuries resulted from interaction with healthcare patients.

Common illnesses and injuries

In 2016, 51% of RN illnesses and injuries included muscle and ligament tears, strains and sprains requiring an average of seven days away from work. At the same time, 27.7% of all work-related medical cases involved injuries to the back. Other common issues resulted from:

  • Exposure to radiation through work in the ER or radiation department
  • Chemical exposure to chemotherapy drugs and sterilizing agents
  • Exposure to infectious diseases, including MRSA, HIV and Hepatitis B

Next steps

Occupational illnesses and injuries are hazards of the nursing profession. If they are work-related, they should be compensable through workers’ compensation. An RN with this kind of injury or illness should seek medical attention as soon as possible and advise his or her supervisor of the issue. The nurse’s employer should help with the completion of a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. If the nurse meets any resistance or the employer’s response is delayed for any reason, the RN may wish to seek legal guidance to help determine next steps.