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April 2, 2003

Nurses' Working Conditions and the Nursing ShortageNurses' Working Conditions and the Nursing Shortage

Author Affiliations

Letters Section Editor: Stephen J. Lurie, MD, PhD, Senior Editor.

JAMA. 2003;289(13):1632-1633. doi:10.1001/jama.289.13.1632-a

To the Editor: In their article on the nursing shortage, Drs Berliner and Ginzberg1 did not address the physical demands of nursing. The increased risk of musculoskeletal injuries is a significant reason for people not wanting to enter the profession, for nurses not wanting to work in nursing homes and hospitals, and for injured nurses to leave the profession. The authors did state that " . . . answers to these problems seem to be to increase the number of assistive staff to help moderate some of the more strenuous physical demands of the job . . . ." However, lifting even a small patient far exceeds the 51-pound weight load for ideal conditions recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.2 Our research3 and experience shows that introducing the right type and amount of patient care technology into clinical settings is far superior to increasing the numbers of staff to perform lifting. Lifting equipment can significantly decrease job-related stress, lost work, and light duty days due to musculoskeletal injuries, and direct costs associated with injuries,3 as well as decrease injury rates, self-reported musculoskeletal pain, and the frequency of unsafe patient-handling episodes (A. Nelson, M. Matz, G. Fragala, et al, unpublished data, 2003). Safer work environments for nurses translate into greater job satisfaction and improved retention rates. As the United Kingdom has found, no-lift policies with patient-handling technology are the critical answers to the heavy physical demands of bedside nursing.4

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