Working in a hospital presents a lot of unique challenges that can take a toll on a person's body, and many times, healthcare workers end up needing to recover from their own work-related injuries or illnesses. In fact, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says hospital workers report workplace injuries and illnesses at almost twice the rate of those who work in the private sector.
Long hours, a highly stressful work environment, exposure to hazardous substances, contagious diseases, and workplace violence are all things that nurses, doctors, staff members, and emergency medical technicians are confronted with daily. This creates a work environment that contributes significantly to the risk of on-the-job injuries and illnesses.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing aides, orderlies, medical assistants, and paramedics have a high rate of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), which are painful conditions that affect a person's neck, back, shoulders, elbows, hands, or wrists. Common examples of MSDs are muscle strains and sprains, lower back injuries, tendinitis, hernias, rotator cuff injuries, tennis elbow (epicondylitis), and carpal tunnel syndrome.
If you are a hospital staff member or a healthcare professional in New York who sustained an injury at work or developed a work-related illness, you have the right to pursue workers' compensation benefits. But the process isn't always easy, and sometimes you need legal help from an attorney to help you navigate New York's complex workers' compensation system and fight for the benefits you rightfully deserve.
What are common injuries working in healthcare?
Working in a hospital or another type of medical facility means you'll automatically be exposed to some physical and psychological hazards, which could result in a debilitating work injury or illness.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that nursing assistants have the highest rate of traumatic injuries among all healthcare personnel, typically due to slip, trip and fall accidents, overexertion, and workplace violence. Hospital nurses also represent the majority of nurses who suffer workplace injuries, followed by transport nurses (nurses who administer medical care in ambulances), and residential care facility nurses (nursing homes/assisted living facilities).
Common injuries include:
- Back injuries —Bending, lifting, and twisting are a big part of a healthcare worker's job, whether that's transferring patients or lifting other heavy objects. Heavy lifting may result in lower back pain that's associated with a musculoskeletal injury, such as a muscle sprain or strain or a herniated disc (sometimes called a bulging disc). A slip and fall can also cause trauma to the back and spine (e.g., fractured vertebrae, spinal cord damage, etc.)
- Sprains and strains — Again, healthcare workers are at a high risk of developing MSDs, which include sprains and strains. Chronic muscle strains are defined as conditions that result from a repetitive movement over a continued length of time that puts stress on the body. Acute strains happen from overstretching, excessive contraction, or a direct blow to the muscle. Due to the fast-paced nature of their job, healthcare workers can also develop a strain if they don't get enough rest following periods of intense activity.
- Broken bones and fractures — Put enough pressure on any bone in the body, and eventually it will break. Whether it's from a slip and fall, a crush injury, or blunt force trauma, bone breaks are painful injuries that may require surgery, medical devices (crutches, wheelchairs, casts), and physical therapy.
- Cuts and punctures — Hospitals, emergency rooms, urgent care centers, and doctors' offices are filled with sharp, pointy instruments and tools that pose a risk of injury. Treatment for a deep enough cut may include stitches, staples, and bandaging. Along with the obvious hazard of suffering an injury from getting cut by a sharp object, there are many bloodborne illnesses, diseases, and infections that a healthcare worker can get from a needlestick or getting poked with a contaminated device.
- Injuries from violent attacks —Healthcare workers—registered nurses in particular—are three times more likely to suffer a work-related injury due to a violent event, whether that's an attack from an unruly patient, a patient's loved one, or a co-worker. Along with the physical harm that's done in these types of incidents is the psychological harm, which is no less real than the victim's bodily injuries.
- Work-related illnesses — Medical professionals are constantly exposed to sick people and work in an environment that's a breeding ground for contagious diseases, viruses, and infections.
Once you're healthy enough to do so, there are two things you should do when you sustain a workplace injury or illness in New York. First, notify your employer right away. And second, talk to a workers' compensation lawyer to understand your legal rights and options.
You may be entitled to workers' comp benefits
Injured healthcare professionals can file for workers' compensation in New York. Under the law, all hospitals and medical facilities are required to have workers' comp insurance for employees who are hurt or develop an illness within the scope of their work. Often, the injuries nurses and other medical professionals suffer are painful and require time off from work to fully recover. Workers' compensation benefits can pay for reasonable and necessary medical treatment and provide partial wages while the injured or sick worker recovers.
The problem is obtaining these benefits can be difficult. Claims are often disputed or denied by insurance companies, and it's common for workers to miss important deadlines or make mistakes when filling out the necessary paperwork.
At Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP, our highly skilled workers' comp attorneys have helped more than 100,000 clients get the results they need and deserve. Our experienced legal team understands the complicated workers' compensation process in New York because we've been fighting for injured workers here for decades.
See how a NYC workers' compensation lawyer can help you and contact us today for a free case evaluation.