Musculoskeletal disorders in hospital nurses: a comparison between two hospitals

Ergonomics. 1994 Jul;37(7):1205-11. doi: 10.1080/00140139408964898.


Nursing staff members of a urban general hospital (GH) and a small oncological department (OD) were surveyed to determine the prevalence of occupational related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), the specific disabilities, accidents at work, and working time lost. All subjects had a medical examination to evaluate osteoarthicular disease and selected cases were invited to X-ray examinations. The purpose of this study was to compare MSDs in the two groups of nurses working in two hospitals with different work organization in the same geographical area, Pordenone in Italy. In the previous year 48% GH and 33% OD nurses reported back pain due to work, 29.4 and 16.1% respectively have had X-ray or orthopaedic examinations, 19.2% and 9.1% had been away from work because of back pain. All these differences are statistically significant. The analysis of musculoskeletal pain sites and working tasks in the two hospital workers shows no differences in distribution. Great difference exists when analysing the numbers of patients assisted by a nurse: 0.57 and 1.27 nurse/patients respectively in GH and OD. Our data indicate a high overall frequency of occupational back pain, similar to other studies in Europe. The comparison between the two hospitals suggests factors associated with the disorder: work tasks and particularly nurses/patients ratio are more important factors than age and length of exposure. Different work distribution, shift organization, a better ratio between nurses and patients, an improvement of equipment provision, and specific nurse-training with application of ergonomic methods could improve work efficiency radically and decrease injury rates.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Female
  • Hospital Units
  • Hospitals, General
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Lifting
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / prevention & control
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control
  • Workforce