If you've ever spent time in a hospital in Georgia or anywhere else, you likely have a fond memory of at least one of the nurses on your floor. Their stories and compassion are legend. Unfortunately, so are their claims for on-the-job injuries.
According to long-collected data, nursing workers in hospitals and other care facilities suffer more than 35,000 injuries of the sort that make it necessary for them to miss work. Faced with having to lift numerous patients from one location to another - some of them weighing hundreds of pounds - nurses and others in the care industry suffer back and other musculoskeletal injuries at a rate higher than construction workers.
What's worse in the view of many observers, though, is the health care industry's refusal to recognize the problem and do something about it. Attempts by federal regulators to issue rules that would provide greater workplace safety have not succeeded due to politics. Indeed, the following example might give some readers a certain sense of déjà vu.
Back in 2000, just as the Clinton administration ended, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced a rule that would require larger employers to prevent "ergonomic" injuries to workers. The rule specifically identified nursing workers as employees who needed workplace redesigns to reduce injuries. Business interests opposed the rule as too costly, and when Republicans took power of Congress and the White House, the rule disappeared.
In recent weeks, news headlines have shown that the threat of injury to nurses isn't limited to just lifting and moving patients. Attacks by patients are routinely reported. There are cases of nurses being stabbed nearly to death. In one case, a nurse doing her job was taken hostage and sexually assaulted by an inmate patient.
Lacking national policy, many states now make it a felony to attack nursing staff. Georgia enacted such legislation last year. Many will surely declare the increased penalties laudable. Meanwhile, nurses who suffer injury helping patients and doing the routine tasks of their job could find it necessary to fight for the workers' compensation benefits they deserve. Care in that regard is something to seek from an experienced attorney.
If you or someone you know is a health care worker who experienced an injury while caring for a patient, contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. If your claim is not handled timely, you may lose workers' compensation benefits from your employer.