Preventing Back Injuries In Your Nursing Staff

29 September 2014
 Categories: Law, Articles


If you run a nursing home, home health care service or other type of business that employs orderlies or nurses' aides, you may be aware that this group of employees is one of the top four groups that file workers' compensation claims. Why? The position tends to be hard on the workers' backs, and overextension, overexertion and simply lifting a patient the wrong way can lead to a painful (for them) and expensive (for you) injury. Fortunately, you can put some measures and policies in place to help avoid back injuries in your nursing staff. Read on to find out how you can be proactive in this matter.

Invest in Lifting Equipment

While a nurses' aide learns how to lift patients as part of his or her training, the reality is that many employees are injured by doing just that. If you manage a nursing home or hospital, you undoubtedly have patients who require assistance. One solution to this problem is to invest in lifting equipment, which bears the brunt of the weight when transferring and assisting patients.

Another side benefit is that lifting equipment helps the nursing staff lift belligerent, confused patients. This could lead to a decline in the number of assault-related injuries that your staff suffers. Although your staff does not expect to be assaulted by their patients, in a setting where senile or mentally compromised patients need assistance, it's more than a remote possibility. Mechanical lifting devices can act as a physical buffer between such patients and your staff members and reduce the number of injury claims.

Increase the Number of Staff Members

Another problem that your nursing staff may face is that each aide or orderly might have many patients to care for in any given shift. This means that if a slight injury occurs, the aide is rushing to care for other patients at the same time, and might continually stress that muscle or ligament, resulting in a more serious injury. Having a lower patient to nurses' aide ratio can allow your staff to stop rushing and to take the time to evaluate whether a muscle needs to be rested.

Insist on Safe Transfer Protocols

In the event that a mechanical lifting device can not or will not be used, your nursing staff must work together to safely transfer and lift patients. Often, this means having one or more other staff members physically assisting the person whose responsibility it is to lift the patient. Some aides will hesitate to ask for help, under the assumption that they should be able to handle transfers on their own.

Have regular meetings with your aides and orderlies to let them know that asking for help is not only acceptable, but expected. Discourage your staff members to perform lifts and transfers without another person helping; listing this in writing as a mandatory procedure to be followed is more likely to get your staff to comply than simply suggesting that it's possible to ask for help.

Take All Claims Seriously and Act Immediately

Many times, an injury might be mild when first reported. If the employee is allowed or encouraged to continue working without being cleared by a physician, you are more likely to have a workers' compensation attorney knocking on your door. Make it a rule that all injuries, no matter how mild, be reported to a manager immediately, and have potentially injured employees seen by your workers' compensation doctor as soon as possible. Do not allow an employee to return to work before receiving clearance from a medical doctor and your workers' compensation lawyer, like one at

Following these protocols should reduce the number of workers' compensation claims due to back injuries that your hospital, nursing home or other health care facility receives. The guidelines will also help to keep your nursing support staff healthy and pain-free, which will maximize their job performances.