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Risk Perception of Musculoskeletal Injury Among Critical Care Nurses

Lee, Soo-Jeong; Faucett, Julia; Gillen, Marion; Krause, Niklas; Landry, Lynette

doi: 10.1097/NNR.0b013e31827334d6

Background: Nursing is known as an occupation with high risk of musculoskeletal injury. Nurses’ perceptions about the risk of injury may have a role in preventing such injury.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to investigate how nurses perceived the risk of musculoskeletal injury from work and identify factors associated with their risk perception.

Methods: In a cross-sectional study using a postal survey, 361 critical care nurses reported on risk perception, physical workload, psychosocial job factors, safety climate, musculoskeletal symptoms, and safe work behavior.

Results: Of all critical care nurse respondents, 83% perceived that they were more likely than not to have a musculoskeletal injury within 1 year. On average, nurses perceived the risk of musculoskeletal injury as lower to themselves than to coworkers. This more positive perception of risk to self had stronger correlations with symptom experiences. Multiple linear regression analysis revealed that higher risk perception of injury was associated with greater job strain, greater physical workload, lack of availability of lifting devices or lifting teams, and more symptoms.

Discussion: Study findings indicated that most critical care nurses were concerned about their ergonomic job risks. Their risk perceptions about musculoskeletal injury risk were affected by physical work exposures, psychosocial job stressors, and experience with musculoskeletal symptoms, but not by perceived workplace safety climate. The findings underscore the need for management efforts to improve physical and psychosocial working conditions and create a safe work environment.

Soo-Jeong Lee, PhD, RN, ANP, is Assistant Professor; Julia Faucett, PhD, RN, FAAN, is Professor Emerita; and Marion Gillen, RN, MPH, PhD, is Clinical Professor, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco.

Niklas Krause, MD, MPH, PhD, is Professor, School of Public Health, University of California, Los Angeles.

Lynette Landry, PhD, RN, is Associate Professor, School of Nursing, San Francisco State University, California.

Accepted for publication June 18, 2012.

This paper was accepted under the editorship of Dr. Molly C. Dougherty.

We thank Steven Paul and Bruce Cooper for statistical consultation.

This research was supported by the grants from the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Foundation, the Sigma Theta Tau International Alpha Eta Chapter, the University of California, San Francisco, Graduate Division, and the University of California, San Francisco, School of Nursing Century Club.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.

Corresponding author: Soo-Jeong Lee, PhD, RN, ANP, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143 (e-mail:

© 2013 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.