By Christy Book
I want you to think back to nursing school. Remember all the sacrifices you and your family made to get to the end goal of becoming a nurse. Remember all the grueling hours you put into making the grade? Now, what if I told you all that hard work could be erased with one wrong move? Well, it can be!
Incorporating good body mechanics into your daily work routine is vital to ensuring you can continue to physically keep up with the everyday demands of nursing. It could mean the difference between longevity in your nursing career versus retiring early due to a likely preventable injury.
What Is Proper Body Mechanics
Proper body mechanics in healthcare can be defined as using specific techniques and muscles to carry out high-risk tasks without causing strain or injury to the body.
We have all sat through boring lectures and in-services on proper body mechanics. How much thought do we give it when we are performing our job duties though? Is it really that important?
How Important Is Proper Body Mechanics
We are taught proper techniques for lifting and performing other high-risk duties as nurses, but how important is proper body mechanics?
- Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a major cause of injury in healthcare workers, according to OSHA. The lower back is one of the most affected areas. Often, this is attributed to poor body mechanics.
- 38% of nurses are affected by a disabling back injury or back pain, the American Journal of Critical Care found. Staggeringly, 9,000 healthcare workers are injured every day while performing work-related tasks!
- 78,740 nonfatal injury and illness cases involving registered nurses (RNs) in the private industry alone were documented by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2020. Of those cases, five thousand eight hundred and fifty involved a back injury. These statistics only include RNs! The numbers are even higher when you factor other healthcare workers into the equation.
- Newer studies are now finding a link between work-related low back injuries and higher mortality rates. Further studies are needed to substantiate this claim and nail down the specifics. Nonetheless, research is suggesting a link between the two.
Do you think those numbers are scary? Now that is something to think about!
Understanding The “Why” Factor
It is so important to understand the “why” factor as opposed to just being told we need to do something. When we understand why something is important, we are much more apt to follow through with it.
These statistics shine some much-needed light on the “why” factor and strengthen the importance of following proper body mechanics guidelines.
How To Prevent Back Injuries as a Nurse
The good news is by practicing good body mechanics you can markedly reduce your risk of becoming a part of these statistics.
Some basic techniques you can use to prevent injury when lifting include the following:
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart to provide a good base for support
- Get as close to the patient as possible
- Face the patient when lifting
- Don’t bend or twist at the waist
- Bend with your knees
- Lift with your legs and not your back
- Use a mechanical lift when available and not contraindicated for the patient
Practice Makes Perfect
It is so easy in a fast-paced environment like nursing to forget about good body mechanics. However, it is an absolute necessity to remember it.
Practice brushing up on your body mechanics, so it becomes a habit.
The more you practice, the better you will become, and the less likely you will be to sustain a work-related injury due to poor body mechanics.
Protect the investment you made in yourself when you started your nursing journey. Don’t become another statistic!