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Registered nursing: A dangerous field with many hazards

Registered nurses are essential in the U.S. health care system. They provide health services and care to many patients, often in place of doctors or other medical providers. These very same nurses are the people who face a significant number of hazards in the workplace, even when they're performing routine duties.

Research on hospitals in the past has shown that hospital workers have a higher rate of injuries and illnesses compared to employees in other careers. RNs, specifically, are among those with the highest rates of illness or injury in the social assistance and health care sectors.

In 2016, hazards at work resulted in 19,790 nonfatal injuries and illnesses that caused RNs to miss at least a day of work. That is around 104.2 cases out of every 10,000 full-time workers. Between male and female RNs, female RNs suffered 91.2% of the total injuries in 2016. Around 90% of RNs are female.

Age does play a role in the rate of injury. Nurses who were between the ages of 45 and 54 made up 27% of the reported injuries and illnesses. Around half of the nurses injured in the study of 9,580 RNs had worked for their employers for at least five years at the time of the illness or injury.

What are the most common injuries for RNs to suffer?

There are many different causes of nursing injuries. Some of the most common include:

  • Overexertion and bodily reactions, 45.6%
  • Transportation incidents 3.8%
  • Falls, slips and trips, 25%
  • Violence or injuries caused by patients, animals or others, 12.2%
  • Contact with equipment or objects, 9.8%
  • Exposure to harmful substances, 3.3%

Why are RNs at such a high risk of injury and illness?

Consider a Registered Nurse's average day. They may be in direct contact with patients who are ill or injured, their family members who are angry, upset or grieving, or with those struggling with mental illness. There is a risk of violence from some parties, and a risk of exposure to illnesses from others. Nurses come into contact with needles, syringes, equipment and other possible hazards every day.

From slick floors in an emergency ward due to cleaning up a spill to biohazards, RNs run into a number of potential hazards every day, which is why they're at such a high risk of getting hurt or sick on the job. If this happens, they should be entitled to seek workers' compensation in Minnesota and to take time to recover.

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