New York Nurses Cope With Workplace Risks

On-the job stress and injuries plague New Yorkers in the nursing profession. A recent nationwide survey by the American Nurses Association tallied over 4,000 responses, with high stress and the risk of serious injury topping the list of work-related health and safety concerns. Nurses also worry, to a lesser degree, about being assaulted while working, becoming allergic to latex (found in gloves and other materials used in health care) and catching hepatitis or HIV from an accidental needle stick.

The major issues have not changed significantly since the survey was first conducted in 2001. The nurses' worry about injuries is well-founded, as on-the job injuries have increased over the past ten years. Almost all of the nurses continue to work through pain, and over 50 percent say their jobs actually caused or worsened their pain.

Average work shifts are now longer, which could amplify stress and increase the risk of a workplace injury. More than half of those surveyed reported working at least 10 hours at a time. Reflecting the effects of stress and fatigue, many nurses expressed concern about getting into accidents while driving home after a long day's work.

Some bright spots were found in the ANA survey. Compared with the last survey, working conditions have become safer in some ways. Fewer nurses reported being assaulted by patients. Lifting patients, a major cause of strain, has become easier due to improved mechanical devices, even though only about one-third of the nurses now use the new devices frequently. New mechanisms for handling and disposing of needles make nurses less likely to be accidentally stuck.

The survey also revealed that the nursing workforce is growing older, which implies greater vulnerability to injury. Almost two-thirds of the respondents are aged 50 and older. More than a third of the respondents have at least thirty years' experience in the nursing field. After devoting a lifetime to this healing profession, nurses deserve to be compensated when the job causes them pain and stress.

New York area nurses who are dealing with injury or disease can get assistance from New York-area workers' compensation advocates who are familiar with the process and workers' compensation.