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Archive November 2019 XX, No. 11

Safety: Avoiding Surgery's Aches and Pains

Take steps to protect surgical team members from workplace risks.

Teresa Boynton

Teresa Boynton, MS, OTR, CSPHP


Pamela Bevelhymer, RN, BSN, CNOR
HEAVY LIFTING Reaching to position patients puts nurses at significant risk of musculoskeletal injury. procedure.

As the ergonomics and injury prevention specialist for 11 hospitals, I was responsible for tracking the causes of the most frequent and severe injuries by department, by job title and by body part, and using this information to develop action plans focused on decreasing injury rates. During my career, I worked with numerous surgical team members who suffered workplace injuries associated with

  • lifting and transferring patients onto and off of OR tables;
  • lifting and moving heavy equipment; and
  • standing during long procedures, especially when leaning forward or twisting to assist the surgeon.

My job let me identify not only how your nurses and techs can get hurt, but also how you can look out for their well-being as they focus more on patient care than on protecting themselves from harm.

  • Understand the risks. Research shows most nurses who suffer injuries don’t report them ( Future studies should therefore explore organizational factors that contribute to this concern, and establish strong policies to promote the health and safety of workers in the trenches. Having someone in a leadership position who is trusted and viewed as empathetic could lead to more nurses reporting injuries before injury rates get worse.

Do your part by observing nurses in action to identify potential dangers they might not realize they face. Distribute department- or unit-specific (pre-op, OR, PACU) confidential surveys. Ask team members about areas of discomfort or pain (lower back, upper back, neck, shoulders, legs) associated with specific actions and physically difficult tasks that cause them the most discomfort or that they consider the highest risk.

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