Researchers from the University of Otago noticed that although there is evidence that nurses have high rates of musculoskeletal injuries, there is an absence of research identifying effective interventions to address this problem.

High rates of back injuries and pain have long been identified in nurses. According to the United States (U.S.) Bureau of Labor Statistics, rates of injury and illness for nurses rank among the highest across occupations. Here in New Zealand, the lifetime prevalence of back pain among nurses is estimated to be 74%. The risk of experiencing pain and injury increases with the number of years that nurses spend in the profession.

The researchers investigated a range of techniques to prevent musculoskeletal injuries in nurses, as advocated by nursing and physiotherapy academics. These included education, equipment, health and safety policy and multi‐disciplinary collaboration.

However, several barriers to using these techniques were identified, including age, knowledge and availability of equipment, personal and contextual factors, staffing and time pressures.

Ensuring adequate staffing was considered one of the most effective ways to prevent injuries by making it possible for nurses to “divide the workload”. Nurses also thought encouraging a culture of safety was important in this regard.

Several strategies were recommended for further investigation and implementation in clinical practice, such as the sharing of personal experiences, orthopaedic assessments and changes to workplaces that foster a culture of safety.

The researchers concluded that further research is required to reduce musculoskeletal pain and injury among nurses. This research should account for the barriers to current prevention strategies and consider investigating novel interventions.

The research is published in Nursing Open, here.

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