Nursing – is your body paying the price

Nursing and exercise: how to ease your pain

September 17, 2021
September 17, 2021

Nursing – is your body paying the price? 

Nursing can hurt and not just because it is difficult to deal with the ever-changing nature of healthcare and the incredible toll that long hours can take on a nurses’ emotional well-being. It is no secret that nursing can also take a physical toll on the body. The nature of nursing means that injuries are almost expected.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) report that the work injury rate for nurses is 12.7 cases per 10,000 workers. This compares quite unfavorably with the rate of 3.8 for all other industries combined. Moving, twisting, and lifting (increasingly heavier) patients causes the highest rate of strains and sprains of all professions. Slips and falls also contribute to the injury rate.

Making matters works is the lesser-known contributor to nursing injuries – workplace violence. According to the BLS, violent events account for 12.2% of all occupational injuries for nurses which again compares quite unfavorably to the 4.2% for all other industries combined. 

The vast majority of injuries to nurses (74.1%) happen in hospitals. 

What hurts?

Injuries to the trunk are the most common for RNs of all age groups with the exception of nurses in the over-65 age group. For nurses over the age of 65, the trunk, upper and lower extremities, head, and multiple body parts appear to be injured equally often. 

Start with prevention

Start with the basics – try to avoid illnesses and injuries. Offer resources that will help nurses connect with good information on how to take care of themselves. Be sure to include some of the following:  

  • Be mindful of your wellbeing. Dehydration, poor exercise and eating habits, and sleep deprivation can contribute to safety issues at work that may result in injuries. 
  • Follow best practices for hand washing. 
  • Immunize against the flu and other pathogens. 
  • Practice safe handling of sharps. 
  • Use lift and transfer equipment when it is available. 
  • Watch for the kinds of hazards that can cause slip and fall injuries – particularly in hallways where equipment is frequently stored. 
  • Stay educated. Attend safety demonstrations and access content on safety to ensure that you are being safe at work.

Treating and preventing injuries

Even with the best-laid plans, a nurse can still be injured on the job, so what should happen when a nurse is injured and are there strategies to help strengthen the body to make injuries less likely or less severe? Practicing both active and passive exercises in nursing can help build strength and endurance. As with any form of restorative or strength-building exercise, check with your doctor first and make sure that you are doing the exercises correctly

  • Strength and Resistance Training – Exercises like squats, shoulder shrugs (with or without weights) and lunges can be done at home or even at work and can improve mobility, flexibility, and balance. Perhaps most importantly for nurses, these types of exercises can help prevent hip and knee injuries by building lower back and core strength. 
  • Build Core Strength – You may not choose to do a plank during your shift, but it is a great way to build or regain core strength which can help prevent pain and injuries to the lower back. 
  • Stretching – These exercises can be done at work or at home and can help increase blood flow to muscles, improve range of motion and reduce muscular tension. 
  • Aerobic Exercise – Walking is a great aerobic exercise, and the good news is that nurses are likely already doing this one. If your step-count is not quite what you would like it to be, incorporate a bit more walking by taking a walk around the block, parking a bit further away from the building or taking the stairs. 

At the end of a 12-hour or longer shift, it can feel like you have gotten all of the exercise that you need or can stand—but taking a few extra moments for simple stretches and back exercises can go a long way towards protecting yourself from injury. Taking time for self-care is more important than ever. An important part of nurse retention is making sure nurses know from the beginning of their training how to connect with resources that will help protect their physical and emotional well-being. 

HealthStream Solutions for Improving Nurse Satisfaction

Employee-friendly measures, like increasing compensation and supporting nurse scheduling that is more conducive to work-life balance, are an important part of the effort to improve Nurse satisfaction and retain the existing nurse workforce. Nurses are more likely to stay if they feel confident in their skills and knowledge, as well as their preparation for providing care. HealthStream helps facilitate two nursing competency-related programs that support greater job satisfaction.

  • HealthStream Nurse Residency – Provide newly hired nurses with the educational scaffolding required to build knowledge, skills, attitudes, and critical thinking. This 12-month program begins with 12+ weeks of intensive blended learning, followed by ongoing monthly sessions designed to build upon what the resident nurse is experiencing in clinical practice.
  • Jane® Competency Development – HealthStream’s Jane® is a digital mentor that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to measure competency across the knowledge and clinical judgment domains. This powerfully intelligent tool seamlessly incorporates Knowledge Assessments, AI Critical Thinking Assessments, and a comprehensive CE library to allow for the identification of key personal competency gaps and how to fill them.

Learn more about HealthStream clinical development solutions.