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4 Most Common Nursing Injuries: Workplace Hazards in Healthcare

A career in nursing can be both challenging and rewarding. Moreover, due to the very nature of a nurse’s job responsibilities, nursing involves a certain amount of risk. In fact, according to nursing statistics from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), approximately 3 million registered nurses (RNs) are exposed to workplace hazards. Furthermore, a study by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) showed that in 2016 over 19,790 nonfatal injuries and illnesses occurred. Consequently, these types of injuries often force nurses to take at least one day off of work. Therefore, nursing injuries are relatively common and need to be taken seriously. 

Fortunately, many nursing workplace hazards can be reduced or prevented by educating healthcare professionals and employers about workplace prevention tactics. Ultimately the promotion and education of safety awareness in a medical setting can lead to a safer workplace for nurses across the country. 

What Is the Most Common Injury to Healthcare Workers?

nursing injury

Nurses spend a lot of time on their feet. Additionally, many nurses are required to perform tasks that involve bending, lifting, and twisting, which could all lead to overexertion. Therefore, some of the most common injuries to healthcare workers are overexertion injuries. Considering that overexertion and nonfatal accidents make up almost 50 percent of all nursing injuries, nurses should be familiar with workplace factors that could put them at risk. That said, the most common physical actions that result in nursing overexertion injuries include the following:

  • Repetitive strain injuries (e.g., injuries from lifting patients)
  • Excessive physical effort (e.g., lifting, bending, pushing)
  • Repetitive motions (e.g., twisting, stretching)

And while overexertion injuries make up the majority of nursing injuries, other nursing-related workplace accidents can be even more hazardous to a nurse’s well-being. 

Top Four Most Common Injuries in Nursing

On top of nurses being vulnerable to workplace injuries such as overexertion, strains, and sprains, nurses could be at risk for the following injuries:

Nursing Fall Injuries 

Slips, trips, and falls account for about 20 percent of all nursing injuries according to the BLS. And while most falls don’t result in fatal incidents, many of these falls can be prevented. So why are nursing fall injuries the second most common workplace hazard for nurses? According to nursing statistics, environmental factors such as wet floors from any type of liquid contamination may result in nursing injuries. Furthermore, since medical facilities are cleaned routinely, wet floors are extremely common and make all nurses vulnerable to fall injuries. 

Back Injuries in Healthcare Workers 

Back injuries in nurses and healthcare workers are common. In fact, according to the American Journal of Critical Care (AJCC), back injuries affect nearly 38 percent of nursing staff. Even more, is that this type of nursing injury can lead to debilitating back pain that may result in a nurse needing to take significant time off from work. Nursing statistics demonstrate that many nurse back injuries occur from lifting patients. According to OSHA, one of the best strategies for preventing back injuries is for a nurse to first calculate whether or not they can handle a heavy load. Next, a nurse should proceed with caution by bending at their knees to lift. Lastly, nurses should consider storing necessary heavy materials at the waist level in order to avoid lifting in the first place. 

Exposure to Harmful and Contaminated Substances


Nurses who work in a medical setting are vulnerable to a unique set of risks, such as exposure to harmful substances and contaminated objects, including accidental needle sticks or equipment injuries. And while exposure to sticks, pricks, and equipment contamination happens less frequently than other common nursing injuries, they need to be taken very seriously. That’s because accidental needle stick injuries can result in the transmission of life-threatening diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or Hepatitis. To reduce needle stick injuries, employers may consider an interprofessional strategic team approach to create a needlestick prevention program.

Violence from Patients 

On top of nurses facing workplace hazards such as contact with contaminated objects and exposure to harmful substances, a nurse could be injured by a patient. And while violence against nurses was once considered rare, violent acts aimed at nurses in healthcare settings are on the rise. Violent altercations by patients can include physical and verbal assault and can result in moderate to serious nursing injuries. Moreover, violence against nurses can lead to negative psychological effects such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and burnout. Therefore, employers should consider implementing effective educational training on violence awareness and prevention for their nurse employees.

The Bottom Line on Nursing Injuries

Nursing injuries occur frequently, and nurses should be aware of workplace risks. The good news is that the vast majority of workplace injuries can be avoided with the right educational training and workplace injury prevention programs. With that in mind, if you are a registered nurse, you can begin to take proactive steps against nursing injuries by following the safety guidelines spelled out by OSHA. Additionally, certain risk management safety procedures can be put in place by employers. Because, at the end of the day, nurses are entitled to a safe and healthy work environment. 

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Blog published on:
November 1, 2022

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