The health and social care industry is now the largest source of jobs in the country, representing 8 percent of the national gross domestic product. The health care industry employs over 18 million American workers and over 80 percent of the workers are women.
Health care workers provide vital service and care to patients and their work is critical to a growing aging population. They work in hospitals, clinics, care facilities and patient homes to provide treatment and support to patients.
Prevalent occupational injuries
Health care work is both physical demanding and mentally stressful. Health care workers face a variety of on the job hazards daily. The risk of nonfatal occupational injury and illness is higher in the health care industry than any other field; almost twice the rate of other industries. Common occupational injuries for health care workers include:
- Overexertion and repetitive stress injuries: Nurses, nursing aides, orderlies and attendants have the highest risk of musculoskeletal disorders. Injuries are often the result of repetitive motions or from working in awkward positions.
- Strains and sprains: Health care workers suffer sprains and strains from lifting patients and moving heavy machinery. Injuries often result in back, neck and shoulder pain.
- Cuts and punctures: Health care workers suffer needle pricks, punctured skin and cuts from the various sharp objects used in patient care.
- Violent acts: Assaults on health care workers from patients or patient family members are common.
- Slips and falls: Waxed hospital floors are slick and subject to spills. Workers can easily slip on wet or slippery floors.
- Infections and illness: Working around ill patients exposes health care workers to infectious diseases, airborne pathogens, mucus and bodily waste.
Risks of workplace injury increase with understaffing. Understaffing forces health care workers to work faster and they have less support for difficult tasks such as patient transfer or restraint.
Health care workers spend long days dealing with potentially dangerous patients amidst hazardous workplaces. When an employee who provides so much care to others is injured in the workplace, a workers’ compensation claim can help with medical expenses resulting from the injury.