Occupational injuries among nurses and aides in a hospital setting

Am J Ind Med. 2012 Feb;55(2):117-26. doi: 10.1002/ajim.21018. Epub 2011 Oct 24.


Background: Patient care workers in acute care hospitals are at high risk of injury. Recent studies have quantified risks and demonstrated a higher risk for aides than for nurses. However, no detailed studies to date have used OSHA injury definitions to allow for better comparability across studies.

Methods: We linked records from human resources and occupational health services databases at two large academic hospitals for nurses (n = 5,991) and aides (n = 1,543) in patient care units. Crude rates, rate ratios, and confidence intervals were calculated for injuries involving no days away and those involving at least 1 day away from work.

Results: Aides have substantially higher injury rates per 100 full-time equivalent workers (FTEs) than nurses for both injuries involving days away from work (11.3 vs. 7.2) and those involving no days away (9.9 vs. 5.7). Back injuries were the most common days away (DA) injuries, while sharps injuries were the most common no days away (NDA) injuries. Pediatric/neonatal units and non-inpatient units had the lowest injury rates. Operating rooms and the float pool had high DA injury rates for both occupations, and stepdown units had high rates for nurses. NDA injuries were highest in the operating room for both nurses and aides.

Conclusions: This study supports the importance of a continuing emphasis on preventing back and sharps injuries and reducing risks faced by aides in the hospital setting. Uniform injury definitions and work time measures can help benchmark safety performance and focus prevention efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Databases, Factual
  • Ergonomics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massachusetts
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurses*
  • Nursing Assistants*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Occupational Exposure / statistics & numerical data
  • Occupational Health
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States
  • United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration