Healthcare Worker Health 101: Preventing Back Injuries

Healthcare Worker Health 101--Preventing Back InjuriesIt’s not surprising that laborers, truck drivers, maintenance workers and law enforcement personnel bear some of the highest national rates of occupational injuries.

What might be surprising to you is that hospital workers join them in the top five. And with more than half of their injuries involving the back, nursing has become the career category that carries a very high risk for back injuries.

These past few weeks, we’ve covered a number of topics geared towards keeping healthcare workers healthy, from footwear for nurses, to sleep tips for night shift workers, to healthy eating in a hospital.

So as we continue our series about how healthcare workers can stay healthy, let’s look at some ways that RTG Medical travelers can help prevent back injuries in the workplace:

  • Use lifting assistance devices: Gait belts, walkers, rails, Hoyer lifts or other patient lifts, and sliding boards are available in most patient care facilities, but they certainly won’t help you if you don’t use them. Sure, sometimes it seems easier and faster to skip this step when you’re strong and fit, but if you want to stay that way, take the time to protect your back and your health.
  • Consider wearing a back support beltIf you’re in a position that requires constant lifting, a back belt will help support the lumbar section of your spine and the muscles that surround it.
  • Learn and use proper lifting techniqueAn awareness of how far apart you place your feet, the direction you pivot, how you bend your knees, the position of your head and how straight your back is can make the difference between safe lifting and pain or injury.
  • Get trained: Most facilities not only offer ergonomics or back safety training, they require it. However, as a traveling healthcare worker, you might fall through the cracks, especially when it comes to refresher training. Make sure you’re up to date.
  • Ask for help: Some lifting just can’t be done alone. Although it’s harder to find assistance when you’re new at a facility and don’t know everyone by name, insist on using the “buddy system” in situations where you need another set of hands. It might even help you make new friends!

Proper health doesn’t only happen in the hospital. You can also take steps to protect your back health when you’re away from the workplace:

  • Proper sleep posture: If you’re a back sleeper, this puts extra pressure on your back. Simply putting a pillow under your knees can help keep your spine in a more comfortable position.
  • Exercise: Regular exercise can help maintain your strength and flexibility. And it doesn’t have to be intense; low-impact activities like yoga and swimming are also beneficial.
  • Keep your weight under control: Being overweight increases your odds of experiencing back pain, especially lower back pain, by as much as 20 percent.

As we say at RTG, “People are our only asset”, and we do whatever we can to protect this asset. Just like the well-being of your patients is important to you, your health, wellness and safety are important to us. So stay healthy and be well!

photo credit: Monash University via photopin cc

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