May 2017

Securing Workers’ Compensation for Massachusetts Nurses an Uphill Battle

Massachusetts workers' compensation attorneyThe risk of work-related injuries faced by nurses often fails to make headlines, despite them standing at a higher risk of workplace injury than construction workers. In a recent incident at Bridgewater State Hospital, a nurse was seriously injured recently when a patient reportedly punched and knocked her to the ground before beginning to kick her.

South Coast Today reports the nurse was attacked from behind, making this a particularly vicious attack where she could not properly defend herself. Though she did manage to get away and call for help from security, she still suffered serious injuries to her head and knees. Three corrections officers who responded to the scene also were injured and required medical attention.

Although this dramatic incident made statewide headlines, the risk of work-related injury posed to nurses across the country often does not. Nurses in all sorts of professional settings are at risk of a variety of job site injuries. Nonetheless, it can be difficult to secure workers’ compensation benefits in Massachusetts.

The risks of a hostile patient are just one thing to worry about when it comes to nurses being injured in the line of duty. A 2015 report by WGBH 89.7 revealed that anywhere from one-third to two-thirds of healthcare workers suffer musculoskeletal ailments. These include shoulder, back and neck injuries. Although safety guidelines limit the weight nurses should lift to 50 pounds, many nurses still need to lift other adult humans, and that puts significant strain on their backs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates more than 2,800 healthcare workers employed in private hospitals in the Commonwealth missed work for some period of time in 2014 due to a musculoskeletal injury. Also at risk were orderlies and aides, who were deemed four times more likely to miss work due to this type of injury than the average worker in the state.

State-of-the-art mechanical lifts are supposed to ease these burdens and reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries. However, these devices cost approximately $2 million each, and not all facilities have them, or have enough of them, which leaves them having to resort to human labor.

The WGBH report revealed that in facilities that regularly used the lifts, there was an approximate 40 percent reduction with patient handling injuries. The Massachusetts Nurses Association has been lobbying for a state law that would require hospitals to adopt patient lifting protocol that would specifically include the lifts.

As of that 2015 report, one-third of hospitals lacked a protocol for safe patient handling and two-thirds of intensive care units don’t have lifts.

As far as how many nurses are still suffering injuries, it is somewhat difficult to ascertain because, as NPR’s Injured Nurses Investigation revealed, most hospitals do not make their employee injury statistics public. This poses a difficulty in being able to compare from region-to-region or state-to-state. However, we do know that many hospitals have been struggling with stagnating or falling revenues combined with rising costs. They are still turning a profit, of course, but the fact that these margins aren’t higher has meant many facilities are looking to cut corners, putting workers’ safety at risk.

Our Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyers know that nurses, as caregivers, deserve to have that care returned when they are injured on-the-job. Such claims may not be simple, but they are often successful with the help of an experienced attorney. If you or a loved one have been injured on the job, you need to seek help. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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