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Patients' weight bearing down on nurses

Ohio's medical professionals often deal with some of the more strenuous labor in the workforce. With obesity levels increasing across the nation and state, and health complications arising because of these issues, many heavier individuals find themselves in the hospital. When unhealthy conditions make these individuals unable to move, nurses, nursing aides and orderlies have to assist in whatever they do.

According to data from a hospital workplace safety coordinator, a nurse will, on average, lift 1.8 tons during an eight-hour day. This often translates to back injuries and hospital stays for the medical professionals performing the help. Workers' compensation and other disability claims could be filed when this occurs.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health indicates that a nurse should not lift any more than 35 pounds at a time, but many hospitals do not follow this guideline. Data shows that back injuries to medical professionals cost billions of dollars each year. The load that is borne by Ohio health care workers is one of the major reasons that people choose to leave the occupation.

A health and safety survey conducted by the American Nurses Association in 2011 showed that 80 percent of nurses reported muscle and joint pain as a frequent issue. The survey also found that more than 60 percent of nurses are concerned about receiving a disabling injury while lifting.

Ten states, of which Ohio is one, have laws on the books requiring hospitals to set standards for health care staff lifting patients.

Much of the heavy lifting that medical professionals perform occurs when boosting or turning a patient. Helping patients to the bathroom can also take a serious toll on the back strength of nurses and aides. At one hospital, about 65 percent of the patients admitted in the past two years weighed between 200 and 299 pounds. More than 2,000 patients in that timeframe weighed between 300 and 499 pounds.

Some hospitals have begun to experiment with devices for lifting patients. Nurses and other health care professionals should inquire about their workplaces adopting the technology.

Source: The Tennessean, "Weight of patients becomes workplace safety issue," Tom Wilemon, July 19, 2012

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Philip J. Fulton Law OfficeRepresenting Victims Of Workplace Injuries And Disability

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