Injuries put RNs in top 10 of riskiest jobs

MSDs account for one of three injuries, BLS says

Hospitals have some of the nation’s riskiest occupations, according to the latest injury data from the Bureau of Labor Stastics (BLS). (See table.) More than 44,000 nurses’ aides, orderlies, and attendants suffered from work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in 1999, the highest number of any occupation. RNs had some 13,000 MSDs. Together, with those other health care workers, they accounted for one-tenth of the nation’s MSDs that led to lost workdays. The rates for registered nurses rose slightly, while they declined for industry as a whole.

Number of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (in thousands) Involving Time Away from Work for Selected Occupations, 1993-1999
Occupation 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999

Nursing aides, orderlies 103.9 101.8 100.6 93.6 91.3 84.1 75.7
Registered nurses 31.4 29.6 27.8 28.9 27.3 25 25.7

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington, DC.

The BLS data showed:

  • Strains, sprains, and tears accounted for about 40% of all injuries resulting in time away from work.
  • Carpal tunnel cases with lost work time rose by 6% after six years of steady decline.
  • Among major disabling injuries and illnesses, median days away from work were highest for carpal tunnel syndrome (27 days) and fractures (20 days).

"Many [health care] systems have a long way to go in terms of preventing injuries," says Geoff Kelafant, MD, MSPH, FACOEM, medical director of the occupational health department at the Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center in Mattoon, IL.