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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Musculoskeletal pain among critical-care nurses by availability and use of patient lifting equipment: an analysis of cross-sectional survey data.

  • Author(s): Lee, Soo-Jeong
  • Faucett, Julia
  • Gillen, Marion
  • Krause, Niklas
  • et al.

BACKGROUND: Patient handling is a major risk factor for musculoskeletal injuries among nurses. Lifting equipment is a main component of safe patient handling programs that aim to prevent musculoskeletal injury. However, the actual levels of lift availability and usage are far from optimal. OBJECTIVE: To examine the effect of patient lifting equipment on musculoskeletal pain by level of lift availability and lift use among critical-care nurses. DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS: A cross-sectional postal survey of a random sample of 361 critical-care nurses in the United States. METHODS: The survey collected data on low-back, neck, and shoulder pain, lift availability, lift use, physical and psychosocial job factors, and sociodemographics. Musculoskeletal pain was assessed by three types of measures: any pain, work-related pain, and major pain. Multivariable logistic regressions were used to examine the associations between musculoskeletal pain and lift variables, controlling for demographic and job factors. RESULTS: Less than half (46%) of respondents reported that their employer provided lifts. Of 168 nurses who had lifts in their workplace, the level of lift availability was high for 59.5%, medium for 25.0%, and low for 13.7%; the level of lift use was high for 32.1%, medium for 31.5%, and low for 31.5%. Significant associations were found between lift availability and work-related low-back and shoulder pain. Compared to nurses without lifts, nurses reporting high-level lift availability were half as likely to have work-related low-back pain (OR=0.50, 95% CI 0.26-0.96) and nurses reporting medium-level lift availability were 3.6 times less likely to have work-related shoulder pain (OR=0.28, 95% CI 0.09-0.91). With respect to lift use, work-related shoulder pain was three times less common among nurses reporting medium-level use (OR=0.33, 95% CI 0.12-0.93); any neck pain was three times more common among nurses reporting low-level use (OR=3.13, 95% CI 1.19-8.28). CONCLUSIONS: Greater availability and use of lifts were associated with less musculoskeletal pain among critical-care nurses. These findings suggest that for lift interventions to be effective, lifts must be readily available when needed and barriers against lift use must be removed.

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