From emergency rooms to home health care settings, nursing assistants often take on a wide range of tasks vital to patient health. Unfortunately, these caregivers also have a high rate of workplace injury. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2015 alone nursing aides experienced 37,370 illnesses and injuries that required individuals to take at least some time off work. 

In addition to frequently working long, arduous hours standing, walking and bending, nursing assistants often engage in heavy manual lifting while helping to move patients, which may easily lead to joint or spinal damage. Nurses also frequently risk exposure to infectious disease, radiation, biohazardous substances and even patient violence. 

What are the most common types of injury? 

Musculoskeletal disorders involving spinal, joint, tendon or muscle damage are some of the most common types of injury that nursing assistants face. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, health care aides took over 18,000 days off work in 2017 due to MSDs, largely due to the frequent need to lift, transfer and reposition patients. Other common sources of injury include: 

  • Radiation: Assistants who work in a department that frequently uses X-rays, PET scans, CT scans or fluoroscopy may risk overexposure to radiation, which some studies suggest may result in certain types of cancer and an increased chance of developing reproductive disorders. 
  • Infectious disease: Whether due to contact with bodily fluids, airborne contagions or a needlestick injury, nurses may contract communicable illnesses from patients, including hepatitis B or C, tuberculosis, syphilis and HIV. 
  • Violent patients: While assistants working in psychiatric or emergency departments have a higher likelihood of experiencing violent patients, aides in any setting may risk injury while restraining a distraught individual or even defending against a sudden assault. 

What are the options when a condition is serious? 

Under state law, most businesses must have a workers’ compensation insurance policy in place, including clinics, hospitals and other care facilities. Nursing assistants who experience debilitating injury or illness may be able to recover medical expenses and lost wages by filing a claim quickly.