Muscle strains, sprains and needle sticks: 4 things to know about nurse injuries

Nurses frequently experience injuries at work — including strains, sprains and needle sticks — and newly licensed nurses are at a greater risk for these injuries than more experienced nurses, according to research published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies.

The data in the study were drawn from an ongoing longitudinal study of newly licensed RNs, being conducted from 2006 to 2016. Data were collected by sending a 100-question survey to nurses, to which 1,744 newly licensed nurses from 34 states and the District of Columbia responded.

Here are four findings from the ongoing study:

1. Despite national policy changes, new hospital regulations and improvements in healthcare technology, strains and sprains and inadvertent needle sticks continue to be a problem among healthcare workers, particularly those with fewer than five years of experience.

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2. More than half (61 percent) of the nurses surveyed reported working worked overtime — mandatory or voluntary — on a weekly basis. Nurses working weekly overtime were associated with a 32 percent increase in the risk of a needle stick. These injuries were also more common among nurses who were younger than 30, had a higher than average workload and less autonomy from other healthcare workers.

3. A near majority of newly licensed nurses work night shifts (44 percent), which were associated with a 16 percent increase in the risk of a sprain or strain injury in the study. These injuries were also more common among nurses who had a higher-than-average workload, were in poor health and worked in geographical areas with more job opportunities for nurses than average.

4. The risk for strains and sprains was lower among nurses whose first nursing degree was a BSN, those who had higher-than-average job commitment, those who worked in hospitals with higher-than-average nurse-to-patient ratios and those who lived in places with higher unemployment rates.

According to Christine Kovner, PhD, RN, a principal investigator in the study, new nurses experience many stressors in their new professional roles, both physical and psychological.

"Interventions that reduce those stressors not only increase nurses' safety, but also improve quality of care," said Dr. Kovner. "Our study is part of a growing body of evidence that suggests newly licensed nurses should not work excessive overtime and should have limited night-shift work."



More articles on nursing injuries and workplace safety:
15 recent stories on patient, workplace safety
4 common nursing hazards demanding hospitals' attention
OSHA enforces nurse protection at hospitals: 5 things to know

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