Doctors typically get the most respect — and the most money — of anyone working in a hospital or other health care setting. However, nurses are the ones who do much of the heavy lifting — literally. That’s one of the reasons they have more job-related injuries than any other health care professionals.

Many of these injuries are musculoskeletal. They often involve the lower back and can be painful and disabling. A primary cause of these injuries is patient handling. In fact, patient-handling injury (PHI) is a recognized term. Programs have been implemented to deal with safe patient handling and mobility (SPHM).

Experts agree that nurses and others in the health care field need to understand how pervasive PHIs are and to find a way to properly care for patients while minimizing the risk of PHIs by using SPHM. Among the leading risk factors that lead to PHIs are:

  • Long shifts
  • Working many consecutive days
  • Lack of sleep
  • Other medical conditions
  • Age
  • Psychological problems
  • A large number of seriously ill patients

The ideal SPHM is multifaceted. It involves educating employees on safe patient-handling practices and the use of available assistive devices to help in the movement of patients. It also requires having a corporate culture where nurses and others aren’t afraid to speak out if they encounter situations that involve the potential for injury or to report that they’ve suffered an injury.

By reporting potentially unsafe practices and situations, nurses and other health care professionals can help lessen the chances of serious and long-term injuries to themselves and their colleagues. If you’ve suffered a PHI or other work-related injury in a health care setting, it’s essential to seek the workers’ compensation you need and deserve to get treatment and continue to support yourself and your family.