Spinal Zap
February 12, 2015 6:13 AM   Subscribe

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing assistants suffered back and other musculoskeletal injuries more than any other occupation in 2013. NPR's Daniel Zwerdling investigated the root cause for many of these injuries: Lifting and moving patients.

In Part 2, Zwerdling examined the outmoded lifting techniques that appear to cause many injuries and the science behind developing safer methods.
posted by Gelatin (11 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I just looked through that chart and it looks to me like firefighters (and their supervisors), garbage collectors, and psychiatric aides all have higher rates of on-the-job injuries. Psychiatric aides appear to have the highest.

I would venture to guess that nursing assistants and psychiatric aides earn the least, have the worst benefits, and the worst job security. So they're probably the least likely to be able to afford gym memberships- that might help them become physically stronger-, good nutrition, and adequate health care for those injuries.

It's the American way, and it sucks.
posted by mareli at 6:41 AM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I'm sharing this article with my wife who is a veterinary technician. They don't have 300 and 400 pound patients, but many techs have fucked up their backs/shoulders/knees trying to carry 100 pound labradors around the hospital.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:02 AM on February 12, 2015

i'm going to say that these statistics are never going to be very good because they depend on the reporting of injuries, which is going to vary widely between industries... also, there are jobs which you can work "wounded" for years and jobs where once you get injured you are out of work permanently, which is also going to skew statistics. coincidentally, jobs where injury means getting fired are also ones where you don't report the injury.

i feel bad for daniel zwerdling, i remember him coming to talk at my high school over 20 years ago and talking about how he was being forced out from 'all things considered' because of the kind of investigative reporting he wanted to do. but, this isn't about proper training. it's about the deliberate policy of using workers until they are useless and then discarding them. why train people if they are going to be gone soon enough.
posted by ennui.bz at 7:14 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

I had a girlfriend who worked in adult foster care for the developmentally disabled. She had to help people move, bathe, get out of bed, etc. Her back always bothered her, and some days it was quite severe. Barely more than minimum wage, no benefits to speak of. And she worked for one of the GOOD service providers.
posted by JohnFromGR at 7:23 AM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

There was a post on this on the CDC's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) blog in 2008, with examples of assisted lifting mechanisms, but don't include powered exoskeletons, which have been studied by Japanese researchers since at least 2001, and the HAL models have been used in Japanese medical institutions for a few years. But I doubt they'll be seen in US institutions any time soon, given how low-level health care assistants who literally do the heavy lifting are considered easily replaceable.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:49 AM on February 12, 2015

Bring on the robots. This type of work is perfect for automation. Get a fuzzy padded forklift to do the heavy lifting and beep cutely at the patients.
posted by domo at 8:42 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

My father-in-law lives in an assisted-living home. He quite often needs assistance to be moved from his recliner into his wheelchair. He's not a small man, either, and his legs struggle to support him.

There's just no safe way to move him. Anyone assisting him will have to contort themselves in various ways, in order to manage his bulk. Then, there are the times when he's fallen in his tiny, cramped bathroom. There's just no way to get him upright and in his wheelchair without twisting yourself in a very unnatural and dangerous (for your back) way.

And he's clear of mind. I can't imagine trying to do any of that with a dementia patient, who is very apt to lash-out at you or otherwise act in a way that makes things even more hazardous to your back.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:49 AM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]

I wrecked my back doing personal care in residential facilities. When I first started, it was one person lifts, hopefully the person could "stand and pivot". Then, we were required to do "two-person lifts" which was better than doing it by yourself, but not guaranteed to be safe, and good luck finding a staff member who wasn't busy to help you in the rush time of morning shift). Later, we were provided Hoyer lifts. Great for your back, but if you only have one in your facility, you are waiting in line for it. Hopefully your fellow staff is using it and using it correctly while you wait, the last thing you need or want is a co-worker out with a back injury. In that career field, if you are doing your job correctly, you are working like a dog. Up, down, kneel, bend, lift, twist.

I will jump off Thorzad's comment, in that doing lifts or using a hoyer lift on someone who is uncooperative to it is dangerous for everyone. The pay is utter crap considering you hold people's lives in your hand every day. Your back pays the price of the good care you're giving.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 8:57 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

Safe Patient Handling is a really big deal in nursing. At the few facilities I've worked at, I found a lot equipment in place, collecting dust, because Nurses and Techs can't/won't use it and/or don't find it convenient and/or find it too time consuming/complicated. I loved using the stuff, and ticked off several co-workers, who preferred I grab a piece of the draw sheet opposite them and just pull dammit.
posted by klarck at 9:07 AM on February 12, 2015

The next logical step after those Hoyer lifts is to just run ceiling mounted I-beam monorail track around the entire facility, and replace wheelchairs with chain hoists and beam trolleys, like they used to have to move shells around inside naval gun emplacements, or inside big factories. Run them down the hallways, put switches at each intersection and room (guess you'll need passing turnoffs as well), and you're all set.

We're already pretty close as it is.

Of course, there's no way to automate something when the labor market is slack enough to just let you use people disposably. (See also: fruit picking.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:22 AM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]

One of my best friends as a kid,her mom was a nurse aid. She started taking painkillers- oxycotin included and eventually went nuts- my friend essentially lost her mom and moved in with another family for highschool. I really wish people making these decisions in industries were actually held accountable for the true cost of the labor they are using. If you're chewing people up and spitting them out- you should personally pay for their ongoing care, and that of their families- once destroyed. (Not to mention being held criminally liable for the unsafe working conditions you're providing.)
posted by xarnop at 10:03 AM on February 12, 2015

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