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Nurses who follow lifting technique still suffer back injury

Most people in Illinois who have ever attempted to lift anything have heard about the importance of lifting with the legs, not the back. Many large items purchased at stores even have warnings on the boxes explaining the necessity to "team lift." In fact, nursing schools apparently teach about the importance of using body mechanics to lift patients in order to prevent a back injury. Unfortunately, some studies show that such a technique will not actually prevent an injury.

Nurses are taught to use the correct body mechanics -- utilizing correct muscles -- to complete a task. For example, when lifting, body mechanics theory says that a person should keep his or her back straight with hips and knees bent. However, recent studies show that the only safe way to prevent an injury that could result in missed work and multiple surgeries is to avoid performing such tasks manually. Instead, the safest way to lift patients is through the use of specialized equipment, such as a ceiling hoist.

Even when nurses utilize the best practices of body mechanics, there are several aspects that cannot be overcome. For example, the easiest way to lift something is to have it as close to one's body as possible, but nurses are often standing by a bedside, which creates a separation between the nurse and patient. Additionally, nurses must bend when they lift, causing certain bones in their back to disengage and putting excess stress on disks. Moreover, studies show that using the team approach when lifting patients does not remove the risk of injury.

Despite studies that demonstrate the risks that nurses who manually lift patients face, hospitals have been reluctant to purchase equipment that could potentially save their nurses from suffering what could be a career-ending back injury. Fortunately, those who do suffer a work-related injury are likely entitled to workers' compensation benefits. While employers are required to provide this insurance benefit for their employees, many people in Illinois who were injured at work have found it necessary to seek the guidance of an experienced professional to help ensure they receive the compensation to which they are entitled.

Source: NPR, "Even 'Proper' Technique Exposes Nurses' Spines To Dangerous Forces", Daniel Zwerdling, Feb. 11, 2015

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