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As NPR's recent in-depth report demonstrated, nurses are some of the most oft-injured workers -- and those injuries can be serious. From back injuries due to patient handling, to standard slip-and-falls, nursing can be a hazardous profession.
So what happens when nurses are injured on the job? Can nurses collect workers' compensation insurance?
While state workers' compensation laws can differ, nearly every employer is required to have some form of insurance to compensate employees who are injured on the job. Employers who don't comply with workers' comp laws can face fines, criminal prosecution, or civil liability.
The nursing profession is no different. Hospitals, clinics, surgical centers, and in-home medical care providers should have workers' comp insurance to cover their nursing staff.
There are specific guidelines to determining if an injury is compensable as well as standard procedures for filing a workers' comp claim that injured employees must follow. In addition, if an employer has workers' comp insurance, this generally means that an injured employee can't sue over an injury, and is entitled only to workers' comp benefits.
Lifting More Than Spirits
The recent focus on nursing injuries has been on safe patient handling, and the injuries that can occur when nurses are lifting and moving patients. According to Colin J. Brigham, Vice President of Safety Management and Ergonomics for consulting firm 1Source Safety and Health Inc., the "primary loss-producing source for workers compensation insurers in this space is patient handling."
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which creates employee safety guidelines for businesses, has also been studying safe patient handling. OSHA has online resources on patient lifting hazards, relevant legislation, and starting safe patient handling programs, and published a guide to worker safety in hospitals.
Nurses spend their lives taking care of patients, and sometimes need to be taken care of themselves. If you've been injured while nursing, you may want to consult with an experienced workers' comp attorney today.