Healthcare workers, including orthopaedic nurses, face a number of risk factors in the workplace for musculoskeletal disorders such as back and shoulder injuries. These disorders are associated with excessive back and shoulder loading due to manual patient handling, applying excessive forces during pushing and/or pulling of objects, required use of awkward postures during patient care, and working long hours and shiftwork. No healthcare workers are immune from injury because workers in all clinical areas are exposed to occupational risk factors, including hospitals, nursing homes, emergency services, critical care, operating rooms, orthopaedic units, and home healthcare environments. This article includes a summary of the scientific efforts of the researchers and their partners at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in evaluating and developing the best practice recommendations for reducing risk of these disorders for exposed workers. The studies conducted by NIOSH researchers and their partners approach the problem from a variety of perspectives, ranging from comprehensive epidemiological studies examining the effectiveness of implementation of a safe patient handling and movement program to laboratory studies evaluating the biomechanical stress associated with using patient handling equipment, and education training programs for use in schools of nursing to educate new workers about safe work practices. Results of these studies have provided scientific evidence that significant occupational risks for musculoskeletal disorders exist and that effective interventions are available to reduce the risk for these workers.
T Waters, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Applied Research and Technology, 4676 Columbia Parkway, Cincinnati, OH 45226