Workers’ Comp for On-the-Job Nurse Injuries in Virginia
Compassionate. Caring. Comforting. Understanding. These are just a few words used to describes nurses, the people we count on to help treat us when we are sick and injured and who provide emotional support to accident victims and their families. Nurses, however, often become the patient after they are injured at work.
This article discusses the workplace hazards that nurses face and how to receive Virginia workers’ compensation if you are a nurse who has suffered an occupational injury or been diagnosed with an occupational illness. Please keep reading to learn more, then contact Virginia workers compensation lawyer Corey Pollard for help protecting your legal rights. We’ve helped nurses across Virginia obtain cash and medical benefits for their injuries and negotiate top-dollar workers’ compensation settlements. And we want to help you during your time of need.
What Do Nurses Do?
There are different types of nurses.
Certified nursing assistants (CNA), nursing aides, and orderlies often do the following:
- Clean and bathe patients or residents at the facility
- Help patients get dressed and use the toilet
- Move, turn, reposition, and transfer patients between beds, chairs, and assistive devices such as wheelchairs, canes, or crutches
- Listen to patients’ health concerns
- Measure patients’ vital health signs
- Serve meals and help patients eat if necessary
- Change linens
- Stock supplies
- Clean equipment and rooms
Registered nurses, nurse anesthetists, and nurse practitioners often do the following:
- Assess patients’ medical conditions
- Record patients’ medical history, symptoms, and complaints
- Observe patients’ and record their observations
- Administer medication and treatment to patients
- Assist in determining patient care plans
- Consult with doctors and other medical providers
- Operate and monitor medical equipment used in patient care
- Assist with diagnostic tests and analysis of the results
- Help patients and their families manage injuries and illnesses
- Explain how patients can help themselves at home
Addiction nurses care for patients who are battling additions to alcohol, drugs, or other substances.
Cardiovascular nurses care for patients who have heart disease and patients who have undergone heart surgery.
Critical care nurses work in intensive-care units (ICUs) in hospitals and provide care to patients who have serious and complex medical impairments that require close monitoring.
Neonatology nurses provide care to newborn babies.
Nephrology nurses care for patients who have kidney-related issues, often related to diabetes, substance abuse, obesity, or high blood pressure.
Rehabilitation nurses provide care for patients who have temporary or permanent disabilities, often due to acute injuries or illnesses.
Where Do Nurses Work?
Nurses play a critical role in healthcare, which is the provision of health services to individual. Nurses can work in a variety of settings, including:
- Nursing care facilities
- Continuing care retirement communities
- Retirement communities
- Assisted living facilities
- Home healthcare
- Doctors’ offices
- Out-patient surgery centers
- Emergency rooms
- Urgent care facilities
- Birthing centers
Each of these settings contain hazards that can hurt a nurse.
Why are Hospitals and Health Care Facilities Such Dangerous Workplaces?
There are several factors that contribute to the high number of workers’ compensation claims for nurses.
First, many nurses are drawn to their career because they like to help others. They’re willing to put the health of their patients above their own safety and health, which can lead to an increased number of occupational injuries.
Second, nurses are exposed to risks that few other industries are. These risks are discussed in greater depth below and include lifting, moving, transferring, and repositioning patients who may move suddenly, causing injury. Nurses are also exposed to violence and needlesticks at a high rate, which are unique risks of their employment.
Third, nurses often have to react to unpredictable events that are truly life or death situations. This can lead to mistakes or errors because action is needed right away.
What Hazards Do Nurses Face at Work?
Nurses do more than check on medications and change sheets for patients. In our experience they provide much of the medical treatment at hospitals and medical facilities. As such, nurses are exposed to a number of safety and health hazards. These include:
- Exposure to bloodborne pathogens and biological hazards. Nurses are exposed to many infectious diseases while performing their job duties. Infectious disease transmission can occur through direct contact with the skin (needle prick injuries, blood droplets on skin) or indirect contact (airborne transmission). Of these infectious diseases, Hepatitis B and HIV are some of the more serious ones transmitted to nurses in workplace accidents.
- Exposure to toxic chemicals used by to sterilize or disinfect equipment. Nurses are often responsible for cleaning and disinfecting equipment. They may suffer harm from chemicals such as ethylene oxide, which is used to sterilize surgical equipment, formaldehyde, which is used as a disinfectant and sterilant, and glutaraldehyde, which helps with cold sterilization, disinfecting, and the processing of x-rays.
- Exposure to hazardous drugs. This includes drugs used for antiviral treatments, hormone therapy, and cancer chemotherapy.
- Exposure to water anesthetic gases such as nitrous oxide and desflurane. These anesthetic gases can leak through a patient’s breathing circuit while a nurse and other health care providers are delivering anesthesia.
- Exposure to emergency response hazards. Nurses may be asked to provide emergency medical care to individuals who have been exposed to chemical, biological, or radioactive hazards such as anthrax.
- Exposure to radiation. Any nurse who helps patients undergoing x-rays and diagnostic tests may be exposed to high levels of ionizing and non-ionizing radiation. This is why having appropriate protective gear and functioning x-ray machines is so important.
- Exposure to latex. Some nurses are allergic to latex, which is derived from fluid found in rubber trees. Rubber gloves consist of latex.
- Exposure to lasers. Lasers produce a highly directional beam of light and may be used as scalpels or probes while delivering healthcare. Nurses may suffer burns if exposed to lasers.
- Workplace violence. Workplace violence includes any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening behavior that happens at work, and is a real threat to nurses in Virginia. Sometimes patients become confused or outraged while dealing with their medical impairments and lash out at the nurses trying to help. In 2010 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that more than 10,000 healthcare workers were victims of assault.
- Patient Handling: Nurses are often required to lift, transfer, and reposition patients and equipment. This can lead to sprains, strains, broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, concussions, fractures, and back, neck, and spinal cord injuries.
- Slip, Trips, and Falls: Nurses may slip on liquid on the floor or trip over medical devices while delivering healthcare.
No matter the cause of your workplace accident or injury, we can help you if you’re a nurse seeking workers’ compensation.
What are the Top Five Causes of Injuries Among Nurses and Hospital Workers?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top five causes of workplace injuries among nurses and hospital workers are:
- Overexertion and bodily reaction (heavy lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, bending, reaching, loading, etc): 48% of all injuries suffered by nurses and hospital workers on the job.
- Slips, trips, and falls (common in operating rooms and patient rooms): 25% of nursing injuries.
- Contact with objects: 13% of nurse injuries on the job.
- Violence: 9% of work-related nurse injuries.
- Exposure to hazardous substances or chemicals: 4% of nurse injuries.
- All other causes: 1%.
How Dangerous is Nursing?
Let’s take a look at how many nurses get injured or sick at work.
A 2011 report by the American Nurses Association indicated that 8 of 10 nurses they report to work frequently with musculoskeletal pain. And data from other sources support this finding.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more employees are injured in the healthcare and social assistance industry than any other. In 2010 the healthcare and social assistance industry reported more than 650,000 cases of injury and illness, which was 152,000 cases more than the next industry, manufacturing.
In 2010 nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants had the highest rates of musculoskeletal injuries of all occupations. There were 27,202 cases involving work-related musculoskeletal disorders, which is equivalent to 249 injuries per 10,000 nurses. By comparison, the average rate for all workers was 34 work-related musculoskeletal injuries per 10,000 workers. And the rate of nurses suffering work-related musculoskeletal injuries was more than double the rate for construction labors.
The numbers don’t lie. Nurses have dangerous jobs. And the consequences of these work-injuries are staggering in terms of medical costs, disability compensation, litigation, missed time from work, and lost productivity. In fact, as many as 20 percent of nurses who leave direct patient care positions do so because of workplace risks.
We know how important nurses are to our patients and society. That’s why we fight to get workers’ compensation for nurses across Virginia.
What are the Costs of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses for Nurses?
Workers’ compensation claims for hospital workers and nurses come at a high cost for injury victims.
According to a 2012 report by Aon Risk Solutions, the average workers’ compensation claim for a hospital injury cost $15,860 for the period between 2006 and 2011. Another source, the National Council on Compensation Insurance, suggests that lost time claims for hospital injuries cost an average of $22,300 per claim. In our experience the true cost when considering wage loss, permanent partial disability, and medical treatment is much higher.
Workplace injuries and stress are some of the common reasons why nurses leave the profession and look elsewhere for employment. And when nurses leave the profession, we all suffer. It takes time to replace an injured nurse with someone who is trained.
Legal Options for Nurses Who Have Been Injured on the Job
As an injured nurse, you probably want to know who will pay your medical bills and take care of your wages while you’re out of work recovering. As an injured nurse in Virginia, you likely have two options:
1. File a workers’ compensation claim.
Nearly all employers in Virginia are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. In our experience, most healthcare providers, hospitals, and nursing homes have three or more employees, which means they must purchase workers’ compensation coverage for their workers. If you prove that you have suffered an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of your employment as a nurse, you may be entitled to lifetime medical care for the injuries, temporary total disability benefits for time missed from work, temporary partial disability benefits if you suffer wage loss while back to work light duty, permanent partial disability benefits for permanent impairment, and vocational rehabilitation if your injuries prevent you from returning to nursing.
2. File a personal injury lawsuit.
Workers’ compensation is your exclusive remedy against your employer; you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer in civil court. But you may have a personal injury lawsuit against a third-party whose negligence caused your accident and injuries. A personal injury lawsuit may provide compensation not only for medical treatment and wage loss, but also for pain and suffering related to the workplace injuries.
An Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney for Injured Nurses in Virginia
As a nurse you take care of others. Unfortunately you cannot count on your employer or its insurance company to take care of you when you suffer a nursing job. In our experience many hospitals and medical providers will fight workers’ compensation claims filed by nurses, arguing that the injury didn’t happen the way the nurse described or that the injury is the result of repetitive motion or a pre-existing condition. Or worse, the hospital or medical facility may promote a culture of fear about reporting work injuries or refuse to invest in appropriate safety training and equipment for nurses.
Fortunately the employer and its insurance company do not get the final word in workers’ compensation. And we can help.
If you’re seeking workers’ compensation for your nursing injury, call, text, or email nurses’ workers’ compensation lawyer Corey Pollard today. We’ve helped injured nurses and hospital workers across Virginia get the benefits and settlement they deserved. Your consultation is free, so you have nothing to lose if you’re an injured nurse or hospital employee looking for help. We’ll navigate the work injury claims process for you.