Predicting injury among nursing personnel using personal risk factors



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Texas A&M University


The purpose of this thesis was to develop a means of predicting future injury among nursing personnel working in a hospital system. Nursing has one of the highest incidence rates of musculoskeletal injuries among U.S. occupations. Endemic to the job are tasks such as rolling, sitting, standing, and transferring large, and often times, uncooperative patients. These tasks often place large biomechanical stresses on the musculoskeletal system and, in some cases, contribute to or cause a musculoskeletal injury. Given the current nursing shortage, it is imperative to keep nurses injury-free and productive so they can provide patient care services. Even though a large number of nursing personnel are injured every year and most are exposed to these high levels of biomechanical stress, the majority of nurses are injury-free. The question then arises "Why do some nurses have injuries while others do not?" The purpose of this thesis was to determine whether individual attributes in a population of nurses were associated with risk of future injury. The subject population was comprised of 140 nursing personnel at a local hospital system hired between April 1995 and February 1999. Data on individual attributes, such as patient demographics, previous injuries, posture, joint range of motion, flexibility, and muscular strength, was ascertained during a post-offer screening on these personnel. Twenty six (19%) nurses experienced an injury associated with the axial skeleton. Chi square test for homogeneity for the categorical predictor variables, and the Student's T-test for continuous predictor variables were used to determine if any individual attributes were associated with future injuries. None of the variables were associated with a risk of future axial skeletal injury. Practical application of these results for St. Joseph Regional Health Center, and possibly other acute care facilities, directs us to stop costly pre-employment/post-offer testing for the purpose of identifying injury prone nurse applicants. Secondly, it allows the focus of limited resources to be on making the job safer through administrative and engineering controls.