Nurses susceptible to work-related disorders: Study

Seven out of 10 nurses in Kakamega County reported severe back pains while lifting patients onto or out of their beds and lifting them from the floor, a study has shown.

The report, which investigated the risk factors for work-related musculoskeletal disorders, revealed that 74 per cent of nurses in the study reported having major problems while performing the same task repeatedly.

Long hours of static work in awkward postures, heavy load lifting and repetitive movement have led to work-related musculoskeletal disorders in nurses, said the study by researchers at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology.

The disorders are due to injuries affecting the connective tissues of the body. They are the leading causes of occupational injury and disability in the world.

High number of patients

The study, published in the Open Access Library Journal and reviewed last week, showed that 77 per cent of nurses had major problems when attending to a high number of patients and performing manual orthopedic techniques in a single day.

“Nurses usually perform their daily tasks, for instance, carrying out injection procedures, taking weights and body measurements over and over as observed in this study. These are related to disorders, especially if done in an awkward/poor posture,” the report states.

Most dangerous occupations

According to the American Nurses Association, nursing is ranked fifth among the most dangerous occupations in the world after construction work, air traffic control, traffic policing and stock handling.

About 400 nurses in private and public hospitals participated in the study.

From the sample, a majority, 77 per cent, were female while 23 per cent were male. Their average age was 35 years and they had been in employment for between one and five years.

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The study states that the nurses were mostly affected because there are fewer of them in their respective facilities and they work without taking a break.

No pause or break

The findings revealed that 82 per cent of the nurses had major problems when they had no pause or break. The study also revealed that many nurses in Kenya continue working even when they are hurt.

Some 68 per cent had major problems working when hurt, 26 per cent had minimal or moderate problems with 6 per cent having no problem when continuing to work while injured.

“The injury can extend depending on the nature of the work and its position in the body. There was significant association between working while injured or hurt and the disorders among the study participants,” the study states.

Regarding working long hours (overtime, irregular shifts and length of workday), 73 per cent of the participants had major problems with the long work schedules, while 27 per cent had minimal or moderate problems.

There was a significant association between not having enough breaks or pauses during working hours, working in awkward and cramped positions and the work-related musculoskeletal disorders among the study participants.

“The nursing profession is a very demanding job, both physically and emotionally,” the study notes.

‘Not ergonomically designed’

“Nurses are exposed to poor working conditions, for instance, stressful posture as a result of the chairs used in the selected hospitals, which are not ergonomically designed and hence exposing the nurses to body problems, for instance, backache, among other body pains,” it adds.

The study recommends that nurses change working techniques, use lifting equipment, interchange tasks regularly to reduce the number of patients attended to in one day, take breaks and avoid awkward positions, repetitive work and strenuous tasks.

“This clearly indicates that performing a given task over and over again is a major cause of disorder among nurses. Preventative measures need to be put in place to reduce the risk of this disorder such as job rotation and taking breaks between shifts,” the study recommends.

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