If you have an active role in the medical field, you have serious risks for developing a musculoskeletal disorder later in life. MSDs affect muscles, nerves and soft tissues, leading to chronic pain and ongoing physical limitations. To help healthcare professionals avoid injuries, the Institute for Work & Health has created a list of best practices. Keep yourself safe on the job by implementing some of the following tips for avoiding workplace injury:
Encourage a “Zero-Lift” Policy at Your Workplace
Using mechanical lifts for patients can reduce worker injury as well as problems for patients. Start by sharing this information with your superiors, so you can advocate for safer practices. Management will have a tough time ignoring the benefits, especially because one branch of the CWA saw a 70 percent reduction in back and neck injuries after instituting a no-life policy. Patient fractures were also reduced by 64 percent!
If your workplace isn’t ready to implement a zero-lift policy, make sure you lift patients in the safest way possible. Bend from your hips and rely on your leg strength instead of overloading your back.
Learn How to Operate Lifting Equipment
Without a strict zero-lift policy in place, lifting equipment may go unused. Healthcare workers aren’t always trained to use lifts quickly or securely. Spending a few extra minutes every day learning how to use overhead and floor lifts properly will save you time and may reduce your risk for injuries.
If you have to lift patients without equipment, keep your patient as close to your midsection as possible while you lift — this technique can help reduce stress on your lower back. By consulting with a physical therapist, you can also find other tips for managing your body during lifts and care procedures.
Work Your Body to Build Strength and Agility
Simple aerobic and muscle-building routines are surprisingly effective, not only in preventing the development of MSDs but also in the management of any symptoms you might be experiencing. Working exercise into your busy schedule is a challenge. However, just a few minutes a day can provide the protection you need to avoid chronic pain, muscle and nerve disorders.
You can protect your body by wearing shock-absorbing shoes to cushion your joints against the extra weight you take on during your patient duties, as well as comforting your bones and soft tissues after being on your feet all day. Flexible clothing that can move and stretch with your movements can reduce resistance, too.
How to Prevent Non-Lift-Related Injuries
While patient lifting was the leading cause of MSDs, healthcare workers can face various other risks. Long-term injuries can also be caused by slips, trips, falls and patient-related assaults. Protect your body from unnecessary harm with a few simple steps you can take during every shift:
- Warm up before work. How often do you have to drop one task and pick up another in a second or less? Without proper preparation, your ligaments won’t be up to the task. Work a few simple exercises into your routine while you’re getting ready for work, and warm up your legs, neck, back and shoulders to prepare for the day.
- Wear anti-slip shoes. Slip-resistance isn’t a priority in every healthcare situation, but it should be. The nature of your role requires you to be quick on your feet, so make sure you prevent slips and falls with the right footwear.
- Train yourself to recognize violence. Healthcare workers are assaulted more frequently than members of any other occupation, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a victim. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has created an online training program to teach you how to recognize aggression and implement safe, effective ways for resolving these problems.
Healthcare workers spend their lives helping others heal, but you shouldn’t hurt your own body in the process. By practicing safe lifting techniques and taking the necessary steps to reduce other common risks, you’ll be thanking yourself in the future.