Healthcare facilities and hospitals nationwide are frequently faced by workplace injuries which ultimately lead to many clinical and financial consequences.

According to a survey conducted by the American Nurses Association (ANA) in 2011, 62 percent of nurses were concerned of facing a disabling musculoskeletal injury, surpassing the deat of contracting infectious diseases like AIDS or Ebola. Of the 4,614 nurses surveyed, 52 percent complained of chronic back pain and 38 percent stated the pain was sever enough to leave work.

The Cause
The main cause of workplace injuries faced by nurses are caused by unsafe practices when treating patients. With aggregating patient population, these unsafe practices and injuries worsen. Those clinicians working in the operating room are more susceptible to such injuries because they are regularly performing high-risk tasks. Such tasks include: standing in place for long hours, repositioning patients on the OR table, lifting and moving heavy equipment and surgical supplies, and holding patient limbs.

According to the ANA, the average age for a registered nurse is 50 and the average age of an OR nurse is 53. The aging workforce increases the risk of workplace injuries and if injured severely, it could force nurses to end their career early, further affecting the ongoing nursing shortage.

The Cost
Workplace injuries are a serious financial threat for any healthcare institution, both directly and indirectly. The direct cost of a healthcare worker undergoing a workplace injury can cost anywhere from $27,000 to $83,000 per claim. There is also the possibility for these injuries could adversey effect the patient, causing patient injuries and cost up to $1 million per claim.

In a webinar from Beckers Hospital Review, Miki Patterson, PhD, president of Optimizing Performance Solution, discussed how these direct and indirect costs accumulate. In a 2010 case study in Nursing Economic$, a U.S hospital reported approximately 20 staff injuries per year. The hospital had average annual costs of $548,040 and in three years spent more than $1.6 million solely on workplace injuries.

Indirect costs include lost work time, worker’s compensation fees, and covering replacement staff which can cost up to three times greater than the direct costs. In an article from Becker’s Hospital Review Dr Patterson argued that “The loss of a highly skilled and experienced OR clinician can also lead to increased setup times, longer case times and a subsequent reduction in margins”.

The Solution
To promote patient safety and decrease the number of workplace injuries, healthcare institutions can adopt several strategies and invest in technologies.

Healtcare providers can begin by implementing maximum weight requirements when lifting patients, holding limbs, or moving heavy medical devices. With the help of lift-technology, clinicians can safely move patients, avoiding any self or patient injuries.

Using technology such as boom-integrated patient lifts, which can perform the high-risk tasks surgical staff deal with in the OR, may reduce staff fatigue, lower worker’s compensation rates, and decrease injuries. The lifts can reposition patients on the OR table, lift and hold patient limbs, hold manual retraction in place of nurse, and even transfer patients laterally.

With Olympus’ return-on-investment calucator, hospitals can input their own figures and compare the costs of workplace injuries versus the potential savings from investing on installing lift technology in the OR.

Another way to reduce injuries, such as chronic back pain from standing long periods of time in one place, hospitals can place comfort mats in the OR.

"We know preventing injuries is the right thing to do," said Dr. Patterson. "Evidence shows it's also a good return on investment with most hospitals seeing a return in just one to three years. This is the wave of the future and we have to start protecting our healthcare workers."

Source: Becker's Hospital Review