Predisposing factors for musculoskeletal symptoms in intensive care unit nurses

Int Nurs Rev. 2015 Mar;62(1):92-101. doi: 10.1111/inr.12157. Epub 2014 Dec 1.


Introduction: Intensive care unit nurses have more ergonomic risks than nurses working in other units in hospital.

Background: Although musculoskeletal disorders are common among intensive care nurses, studies on the prevalence of symptoms, as well as associated factors, are scarce.

Aim: This is a cross-sectional study to investigate the prevalence of musculoskeletal symptoms and associated factors in intensive care nurses.

Methods: The study population comprised 1515 nurses working in the intensive care units of public, private and university hospitals in Turkey. The study sample included 323 nurses selected by stratified random sampling. Data were obtained by a tailored data collection form, a workplace observation form and a Rapid Upper Limb Assessment tool to delineate ergonomic risks. Statistical Package for the Social Sciences 21.0 software was used in the statistical analysis.

Results: The highest prevalence for the musculoskeletal symptoms of the nurses was in the legs, lower back and back. Most of the nurses had encountered musculoskeletal pain or discomfort related to the previous month. The risky body movements that were frequently performed by the nurses during a shift were 'turning the patient' and 'bending down'.

Discussion: The final Rapid Upper Limb Assessment score for the patient turning movement was found to be higher than for the bending down movement.

Conclusions: Musculoskeletal symptoms, which may occur in any region of the body, are mainly associated with organizational factors, such as type of hospital, type of shift work and frequency of changes in work schedule, rather than with personal factors.

Implications for nursing and health policy: Nursing administrators should determine the ergonomic risks of intensive care unit nurses by using Rapid Upper Limb Assessment tool. Health policy makers should develop occupational health teams, and 'ergonomic risk prevention programs' should be implemented throughout the units.

Keywords: Back injuries; Ergonomic Risks; Intensive Care Nurse; Musculoskeletal System; Nursing injuries; Occupational Health; Rapid Upper Limb Assessment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Critical Care Nursing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Prevalence
  • Random Allocation
  • Risk Factors
  • Turkey
  • Workplace / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult