9 Ways to Avoid Nursing Injuries

Working long, tough hours makes it much easier to suffer from nursing injuries on the job. Here are 9 ways to avoid them.

When you’re on your feet most of the time, assisting patients, carrying equipment, and moving through the hospital halls, you’re putting your body under a lot of stress. It’s no wonder that registered nurses experience plenty of injuries, with about 104 cases per 10,000 nurses.

About 70 percent of occupational injuries among registered nurses can be attributed to:

  • Overexertion
  • Bodily reaction
  • Falls
  • Slips
  • Trips

It’s critical, then, to protect oneself and avoid conditions that can lead to a back injury, knee pain, a slip, or a fall. If you’re committed to nursing and love your job, the last thing you want is to put yourself out of commission and lack and the means to help others the way you want to. Here are our top nine ways to avoid nursing injuries.

1. Practice Good Lifting Form

You might’ve heard this before, but it’s doubly important when you’re a professional nurse. Lift with your legs, not your back. That isn’t to say that the back doesn’t play a big role when under a heavy load, but it’s a cue that’s meant to help you emphasize keeping your back straight, while using your legs and hips to help move a patient.

Nurse injuries are most common during patient transfers, where poor technique can quickly tweak your back, injure your knee, or strain a muscle in the hamstring. Avoid twisting or bending your trunk and try to pivot or step to move instead.

Keep your torso and back rigid, pay attention to how you’re using your legs – try to keep your knees in line with your toes, and avoid letting them cave or go into strange angles.

2. Slow is Smooth

Don’t be pressured to move fast when you have to move someone. Not only are you going to put yourself at risk of injury, but you’re going to potentially risk your patient’s health and safety as well. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.

This is a mantra for the Navy SEALs, because they recognize the importance of quality movement (not rushing and getting killed), and practice. Take it one step at a time and take care of both yourself and your patient.

3. Get Help from Coworkers

If you are not comfortable attempting to lift or move someone, don’t. Ask for help, even if you’ve only got a little doubt about it. It’s much better and safer to easily move someone with together than it is to struggle a little bit while alone, because the wrong or a sudden movement can lead to nursing injuries that can put you out of commission.

4. Utilize the Gait Belt

An important tool for many nurses to help move patients and lift them safely is a gait belt. Gait belts are adjustable strap belts with a metal buckle, designed to help provide an additional tool for caregivers to use to help someone with limited mobility move.

Gait belts are worn around the waist, and when worn a little more tightly, they can provide additional lumbar support by helping patients brace against the belt, similarly to how belts and back braces are used for lumbar support when lifting heavy objects.

5. Buy Non-Slip Shoes

Hospital floors are constantly being cleaned, and rightly so. However, that can mean that slips and falls happen relatively frequently, especially with nurses who are in a hurry and pressured to be in multiple places at the same time.

All that pressure can get to you, and send you crashing down onto the hard floor after an unfortunate slip or turn. Even if you try and catch yourself, you could break your wrist or injure your hand, and if you happen to slip while helping a patient move, you can put your knee at great risk of a serious sprain.

One way to help prevent that is to get a better footing, even on hospital floors. Non-slip sneakers can help nurses and medical professionals in general get better traction and stick on their soles, reducing the risk of a slip and helping them lift more easily and more safely.

6. Use Assistive Devices

Yes, it does take more time, and yes, you’d rather just try and do it yourself, but if you aren’t sure that you can do it yourself and there’s no one around to help, or if a patient is simply not going to be movable on their own, you need to bring in the mechanical lift.

These assistance devices function similar to cranes, helping healthcare professionals slowly transfer patients from beds to wheelchairs, or help them out of bed and onto their feet, while providing additional support as they begin moving.

Don’t ignore these devices. They will save your back, and even if it’s an additional hassle to get them setup and brought to the patient, remember that wasting time will be the least of your problems if you’re going to have to battle with a slipped disc.

7. Work Out and Build Strength

Nurses are often told to stay fit and exercise for their own personal health, but it’ll do you good professionally as well. Rather than training for endurance, consider hitting the weight room instead.

You don’t have to be a lifter to build an above average level of strength, and many compound movements – like the squat and deadlift – will help strengthen the muscles and reinforce movements that you’re going to continue to use to help assist patients for many years to come.

8. Get Plenty of Sleep

Not only will sleep help you recover from the physical and mental stress of the workplace and the gym but being well rested is critical. While most of us know what it’s like to be tired, studies have show that we can’t tell when we’re just slightly sleep deprived, although it’s obvious from our performance. And you don’t need a big drop in mental and physical performance to start making the kinds of risks that put yourself and your patients in harm’s way.

We often tend to rate ourselves as being just as quick or productive on days where we’re actually less productive, due to missing just an hour or two of rest. Try to catch up over the weekends and develop a schedule that helps you prioritize at least seven to nine hours of solid, uninterrupted sleep per day.

9. Take a Break or Change Specialties

If you’re hurt, or if you’re feeling like you’re not too far away from getting hurt, it’s a good idea to try and schedule a break or consider switching specialties to a position where you won’t be at quite as much risk of nursing injuries, especially if you’re physically smaller than your peers. No one should have to risk injury on a daily basis as a nurse, and you can still continue to help patients heal and save lives in a different specialty.

Avoiding Nursing Injuries

These nine tips will help you stay out of harm’s way and continue to do your best job as a professional nurse. Remember – prevention is better than cures when it comes to nursing injuries. Rather than looking forward to a future of nursing a strained muscle or a fractured bone, make use of these tips so you can continue to focus on helping your patients heal instead.