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Nurses urged to promptly care for their own health

It’s often hard to admit you need help. Because of the difference you make in people’s lives, many Minnesotans like to think of medical professionals as superheroes. A downside of this attitude is that we all, medical professionals included, ignore the dangers of a career in caring for patients.

As someone in the nursing field, it’s especially important for to pay attention to your health. Noticing and reporting injuries or illnesses can have legal, financial and of course health benefits.

Nursing is not getting less dangerous

Registered nurses, nursing assistants and nurse practitioners are all in dangerous lines of work, and statistics show it. No industry had more occupational injuries or illnesses than “health care and social assistance” in the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Health care is a huge industry, so the total number of injuries is more dramatic than the injuries per worker. But even by that measure, health care is the fourth most dangerous sector, more dangerous than mining, oil and gas extraction, manufacturing or construction.

The largest source of injuries are the kinds you get from the strenuous nature of the work. Moving and physically helping patients, moving equipment, bending or reaching and running are all tough on your body.

Most outsiders might imagine other dangers are more common, such as workplace violence, accidental needle sticks or illnesses contracted from close contact with patients. And, in fact, those are also significant causes of injuries in the nursing industry.

Recognizeand report injuries immediately

We’re often so busy working for pay that we fail to keep close enough attention on ourselves and our families. That’s why “a shoemaker’s children go barefoot” is a very old expression in many languages and cultures.

But as someone in health care, it’s critically important to recognize when you have an injury or illness and to take action. Being aware of the problem early will help you recognize if it was caused or made worse by your health care job.

Promptly seeking professional diagnosis and treatment is not only good medicine, it will help you document the condition and its timing. Without that kind of documentation, getting the wide variety of workers’ compensation benefits that you’re owed might be more complicated.

Perhaps most importantly, by reporting your illnesses and injuries promptly, and getting them documented and paid for by workers’ compensation, you are clearly and accurately communicating to your employer, their insurer, and the industry the kinds of risks your fellow medical professionals face and how commonly you face them. This sometimes leads to preventative changes for everyone in the industry.