May 6th is National Nurses Day; an excellent opportunity to applaud those frontline professionals supporting patients throughout the healthcare system. According to the World Health Organization there are over 29 million nurses in the world, with 4 million practicing here in the US.1 Nurses provide critical medical support in a wide variety of settings and often connect health education and screening services to help patients understand their conditions, successfully manage their recoveries, and get back to health.
Unfortunately, the healthcare industry is fraught with occupational injury due to the nature of the work: infectious diseases, chemicals, physical hazards, violence, stress, etc.2 Nurses and nursing assistants were both in the 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics’ top 10 occupations with the highest rates of injury and illness resulting in days away from work.3 This may be explained, in part, by an American Nurses Association report which found that 68% of nurses surveyed put their patients’ health, safety, and wellness before their own.4
In addition to having a dangerous job, factors in the work environment place a further strain on nurses. One survey found that while 83% of nurses were satisfied with their career choice, 38% often felt like quitting, citing that their job was negatively affecting their health.5 High nursing turnover rates, with resultant recruiting, training, and replacement burdens cost more than $9 billion per year.6 But fervent replacement efforts can’t keep up with demand, and nursing shortages continue as California, Texas, New Jersey, and South Carolina lead the states projected to fall short by more than 10,000 nurses by 2030.7 In response to hospitals with too few nurses reporting worse patient outcomes, 14 states have passed legislation on nurse staffing structure or required patient-to-nurse ratios.8,9
But what can providers and disability case managers do for injured nurses?
In the era of 8-minute doctor appointments, occupational risk factors are often left out of the discussion. Understanding the patient’s job requirements can help clinicians and case managers identify potential risks for injury or pitfalls in recovery. For example, the job description of ‘nurse’ may not capture enough information to define modified work activities, but their listed specialty and common daily tasks may spark a more productive conversation about alternative job duties so they can safely go back to work. To do this, patient intake forms should be improved to ensure patient-reported information is recorded, easily accessible, and used to develop care plans.
MDGuidelines recognizes the importance of job activity levels in estimating recovery timeframes and is increasingly looking at new ways of enhancing duration estimates with better job description information to characterize functional demands.
If you have family or friends that are nurses, you know that they have a deep-seated commitment to caring that doesn’t stop at the end of their shift. More than ever, it’s time to care for them as well as they care for us. Thank you, nurses, for all that you do.
- World Health Organization. Global Strategic Directions for Strengthening Nursing and Midwifery 2016-2020. Geneva; 2016. https://www.who.int/hrh/nursing_midwifery/global-strategic-midwifery2016-2020.pdf?ua=1.
- The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Healthcare Workers. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/healthcare/default.html. Published 2017.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2017 Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses.; 2018. https://www.bls.gov/iif/osch0062.pdf.
- American Nurses Association. Health Risk Appraisal.; 2017. https://www.nursingworld.org/~4aeeeb/globalassets/practiceandpolicy/work-environment/health–safety/ana-healthriskappraisalsummary_2013-2016.pdf.
- AMN Healthcare. 2017 Survey of Registered Nurses.; 2017. https://www.amnhealthcare.com/uploadedFiles/MainSite/Content/Campaigns/AMN%20Healthcare%202017%20RN%20Survey%20-%20Full%20Report.pdf
- National Taskforce for Humanity in Healthcare. Position Paper: The Business Case for Humanity in Healthcare. Ponte Vedra Beach; 2018. https://www.vocera.com/public/pdf/NTHBusinessCase_final003.pdf.
- National Center for Health Workforce Analysis. Supply and Demand Projections of the Nursing Workforce : 2014-2030. Rockville, Maryland; 2017.
- American Nurses Association. Nurse Staffing. https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/advocacy/state/nurse-staffing/. Published 2015.
- Aiken LH, Clarke SP, Sloane DM, Sochalski J, Silber JH. Hospital Nurse Staffing and Patient Mortality, Nurse Burnout, and Job Dissatisfaction. J Am Med Assoc. 2002;288(16):1987-1993. doi:10.1001/jama.288.16.1987