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The Physical Burdens of Nursing

I was in the hospital last week, and a nurse made the following comment to me:  "I was working with a female patient that was 81 years old.  This patient was not very big, in fact, she was only about 100lbs.  We needed to transfer her from her bed to a transport stretcher.  Since there wasn't any help around, and she only weighed 100lbs, I decided to do it myself." My response was, "Your field of nursing, is the ONLY field I know of where 100lbs is considered 'light' or 'easy to handle'.  In every other profession, that is considered a lot of weight, and a risk for injury.  Here are some examples: If I check my bag at the airport, and it weighs over 50lbs, several things happen in the process.  First, I pay an extra handling fee for the luggage.  The bag is then clearly marked with a tag that reads 'Heavy' and that also clearly shows how much the bag weighs.  During handling, either two people are required, or assistive lifting device must be used. And this scenario is for EVERYTHING over 50lbs.  Not so in the field of nursing!  A patient weighing 55lbs would be readily handled manually by many! I also thought of if you go to buy things like dog food at the store.  Those 50lb dog food bags often weigh A LOT!  No one would dispute that caution should be employed when handling those types of things.  Especially, if your job was to do the tasks all day long. In the field of nursing, a paradigm shift is needed to enlighten people to the myriad of physical challenges that nurses experience on the job. In 1960, the average man weighed 166lbs.  Fast forward to 2011, and the average man is now weighing 196lbs.  That is an increase of 30lbs!  Next time you are at the gym, notice what a 30lb dumbbell weighs.  That is a staggering amount of extra weight that nurses are working with, and this is just a statistical average.  It is common knowledge in the nursing field that the average weight for patients in the healthcare environment is almost always that above statistical averages. Today, we met with Dr. Bill Marras from Ohio State University.  Dr. Marras does a tremendous amount of research related to the impact on the spine for patient handling tasks.  This research has enlightened many in the profession to the significant risks of manual patient handling tasks. This research demonstrates that the physical health of these individuals must be protected.  Before any change can happen in our healthcare system, we must first illuminate the problem through awareness. So, for all those nurses that operate under the paradigm of seeing those 100lb patients as acceptable risks to take for patient handling tasks, the time to change that is now!  It's important to protect the health of your spine.  Degeneration of your spine is something that cannot be undone.  Beyond that, spinal surgery is still one of the least effective surgical procedures to have done. Please pass this along, as this is important for all of our nurses to hear.

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