From The Nation, July 8, 2015
The classic line of the friendly white-capped nurse of hospital lore is “This won’t hurt a bit.” For the real life nurses caring for patients every day, however, their job is often a world of pain.
Nurses carry the weight of others’ pain 24-7—often literally, lifting and shifting immobile patients with minimal assistance. The burden takes a hidden toll, as nurses, orderlies, nursing assistants, and other front-line health workers experience some of the highest rates of muscoskeletal disorders of any sector. Registered nurses face more than 50 percent the rate of musculoskeletal injury of the general workforce; nursing assistants more than six times the rate.
“When nurses can’t speak up about unsafe hospital conditions without risking their jobs, both labor and the public lose a powerful potential advocate”.
The government is recognizing that injured healthcare workers cost the system on both ends, requiring expensive treatment for avoidable injury and undermining the care infrastructure by debilitating staff or pushing people out of the job. The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is now taking steps toward protecting them against both injury and exploitation.