July 10, 2012 Liz Borkowski, MPH 1Comment

For the New York Times’ Well blog, Pauline W. Chen, MD writes of a nurse who kept working despite feeling a slight twinge in her lower back, reasoning that her patients would suffer if she weren’t at work. And her story’s not unusual, Chen reports:

Nurses make up the largest group of health care providers in the United States, working in venues as varied as doctors’ offices and biotech firms, governmental agencies and private insurers. Trusted more than almost any other professional, nurses exert a wide-ranging influence on how health care is delivered and defined.

But nurses’ work is not easy, particularly in the hospital setting, where they must deal with intense intellectual and significant physical demands over three or more grueling 12-hour shifts each week. Not surprisingly, nursing ranks among the worst occupations in terms of work-related injuries, and studies have shown that in a given year, nearly half of all nurses will have struggled with lower back pain.

The obvious question, then, is this: If the nurses are grappling at work with all these injuries, what is happening to patients?

Two recently published studies, Chen explains, analyze the results of a questionnaire distributed to hospital nurses and find that nurses who keep working through pain or depression may not be helping their patients: “researchers discovered that the risks of a patient fall or medication mistake increased significantly – by about 20 percent – the more a nurse was in pain or depressed.” Chen discusses some of the solutions to the problem, which aren’t being broadly implemented today, in the full piece.

In other news:

iWatch News: Many of the farmworkers who’ve experienced health problems after pesticide exposures don’t report them, which makes it hard for the EPA (which administers the relevant worker protection standard) to understand the scope of pesticide-related ailments.

Washington Post – Wonkblog: Federal Forest Service firefighters endure hazardous conditions during the summer wildfire season, but many of them don’t have health insurance because they’re technically temporary employees.

Huffington Post: A federal judge ordered Cumberland River Coal Co. to reinstate Kentucky miner Charles Scott Howard, who was fired after he filed grievances over safety issues and then suffered an on-the-job head injury. The company must also pay a $30,000 fine for whistleblower discrimination.

Hartford Courant: Connecticut OSHA has investigated a large number of recent complaints about mold contamination, only to find that dust rather than mold was the likely culprit behind poor indoor air quality.

Montreal Gazette: Quebec has decided to reopen an asbestos mine, and medical associations condemn the move because it will cause disease in Third World countries where those who process asbestos rarely have adequate protection.

One thought on “Occupational Health News Roundup

  1. Actually being a CNA in a Nursing Home is more of an Occupational health risk than a Nurse or CNA working in a Hospital.. wanna talk about under staffed and over worked and working with physical injuries look into Nursing Homes. I was fired two weeks after I suffered a back injury which has now left me disabled. I was still on light duty and it was for insubordination by following doctors orders.

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