Hospitals often fail to protect nurses from injury and then claim their injury is not work-related.
At The Law Offices of Lyndon R. Helton, PLLC, we understand that working as a nurse is one of the hardest jobs there is in the health care industry. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that there are over two million registered nurses in the United States and that this field of work is expected to grow faster than any other occupation through 2022 with a 19 percent increase.
Nurses provide an immeasurable service to members in the community, caring for those who are unable to take care of themselves or holding the hands of those who are struggling with a debilitating or fatal disease. However, the American Nurses Association points out that nurses also experience a higher number of back injuries at 38 percent. These injuries are caused by the constant lifting of patients to provide them with the care they need and can leave nurses unable to work.
Failure to protect
In an investigative report, National Public Radio revealed that nurses are regularly required to lift more weight than is recommended for someone working in an auto factory. Those employees, mostly well-built men, were limited to 35 pounds or under. In comparison, nurses are asked to lift patients who are often between 250-300 pounds - without any type of mechanical aid. Research shows that patients in hospitals are often obese and extremely ill, putting all the work on nursing staff.
In one case study at a hospital, records reveal that nurses often had to move patients without sufficient backup or lifting equipment. The lifting equipment that was in the hospital was usually unavailable because the team assigned to it were working elsewhere, the equipment was not working properly or it was in use somewhere else. In the meantime, patients must be turned over, helped out of bed and into a bathroom or moved for some other purpose. The same hospital was finally ordered by an administrative judge to make changes after nursing staff filed a complaint.
An uphill battle for nurses
When nurses are seriously injured and unable to work, it is not uncommon for hospital attorneys to claim that the injuries were not work-related, even though hospital administration already acknowledged the connection. This can make it difficult for nurses to receive the compensation they need for medical care and lost wages. One nurse in North Carolina actually lost her job at Mission Hospital while she was in the hospital as a patient for a lifting injury sustained on the job.
The North Carolina Court of Appeals has issued multiple rulings against Mission Hospital for failing to provide injured nurses the compensation they are entitled to for a work-related injury. Yet Mission Hospital is not an exception, it is the norm. Nurses who have been injured as a result of their job have a right to appropriate workers' compensation. Therefore, they may find it helpful to speak with an attorney.