When you work in a hospital, doctor’s office or similar health care setting, chances are, you have to deal with immobile patients with at least some regularity. While, in some ways, relying on proper lifting techniques can help reduce your risk of an on-the-job injury related to moving immobile patients, there is only so much you can do to mitigate your injury risk.

In fact, moving heavy, immobile patients is one of the top causes of injury among today’s health care workers. It is particularly problematic among nurses, who often bear the brunt of the lifting responsibility. Lifting-related injuries have become so common among nurses that Healthcare Business & Technology reports that they suffer more than 35,000 back and musculoskeletal injuries annually that are serious enough to keep them out of work. Furthermore, nurses are more likely than manufacturers, construction workers and other employees who perform physical labor, exclusively, to suffer on-the-job injuries.

Contributing factors

Why is it that today’s nurses and other health care employees face such an elevated risk of lifting-related injury? Part of the problem likely comes from the understaffing issues plaguing many hospitals and similar health care environments. Most nurses recognize that lifting patients as part of a team can reduce their injury risks, but finding enough staff members to help them when they need it can prove difficult. Also, while lift-assistance equipment can take a good deal of the strain off of your body when lifting patients, this type of equipment is expensive. This means that many hospitals, particularly those in more rural areas, struggle to afford it.

A domino effect

Another problem related to lifting heavy patients is that, when nurses and others suffer lifting-related injuries, they often become unable to work, which can lead to understaffing issues. When hospitals lack adequate staff, it becomes even harder for staff members to practice team lifting, leading to more lifting-related injuries.

Injuries caused by lifting heavy patients are a major, but often overlooked, part of the health care profession. If you have concerns about suffering lifting-related injuries at work, ask your supervisor what your employer is doing to help keep you safe.