Healthcare workers – nurses, nurse aides, physical therapists, EMS personnel, etc., are in a league of their own.  Their work-day (or night) consists of assessing patient needs and providing treatment for them, many times under a great deal of stress.  The science of fitting the job to the worker is called Ergonomics.  When the physical capacity of the worker is mismatched with the physical requirements of the job, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) can happen.  Ergonomics is the practice of designing tasks and equipment to fit the capabilities of the worker in order to prevent injuries before they occur.

Health care workers, especially those in nursing homes, are in an environment where these types of stress exist.  Many patients/residents totally depend on staff members to assist them with most activities of daily living, such as bathing, dressing, etc.  Employee injuries can result due to multiple interactions when transferring/handling persons.

Management of healthcare facilities is responsible for developing a safety program to ensure the well being of both the patients/residents and employees.  Health care workers should be given the opportunity to be a part of the program planning process.  Workplace hazards could be identified through documenting the number of illness/injuries, reports of unsafe conditions, reports of back pain, and potential incidents.

Some lifting guidelines are:

  • Never lift alone
  • Never transfer patient/resident when you are off balance
  • Limit the number of lifts per worker per day
  • Provide proper training on how to use lift equipment
  • Do not lift when body is in a twisted position

Back and wrist supports, and elbow pads offer some relief from the stress and strain on the body while lifting.  It is important that family members who serve as caregivers in the home seek some type of training on lifting, in order to stay in good physical condition and protect the loved one they are caring for.