Injured nurses often lack support from hospital leaders

Despite research showing nurses are at greater risk for workplace injuries than police officers, correctional officers and construction workers, hospital administrators often refuse to provide the support injured nurses need, according to National Public Radio.  

For instance, at Asheville, North Carolina's Mission Hospital, nurse Terry Cawthorn suffered a back injury--the most common nurse injury--that ended her career, but the hospital did not acknowledge that Cawthorn suffered it on the job. Although hospital staff documented that Cawthorn injured herself moving a patient, the hospital's lawyer argued the cause of the injury was lifting a dish out of the oven, and the facility later fired her.

Most hospitals are not required to disclose injury statistics, but inaction on the part of hospital officials in response to nurse injuries is widespread, according to NPR's investigation. One of the major reasons for this is the expense, as hospitals must deal with the cost of other priority issues such as infection prevention. Hospitals and safety directors say administrators often reject funding requests for initiatives to keep patient-lifting injuries down, James Collins, a research manager in the Division of Safety Research at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, told NPR.

But research indicates hospitals' inaction is also fueled by devaluation of nurses, according to Suzanne Gordon, author of Nursing Against the Odds. Despite cyclical nursing shortages, hospital administrators have historically considered nurses expendable, she said.

Some hospitals have attempted to address patient-lifting injuries by altering the lifting methods, but even that does not adequately protect nurses, as research indicates the safest option is to rely on equipment rather than clinical workers, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

One solution, argues the American Nurses Association, is mandatory nurse staffing ratios, according to WRVO. "Studies have also clearly demonstrated that when you have adequate staffing levels, the numbers of injuries to nurses goes down," Lisa Baum, occupational health and safety representative for the New York State Nurses Association, told WRVO.

To learn more:
- read the NPR article
- here's the WRVO article