Nurses and Workers Compensation

You’re a nurse. You save lives. You calm fears. You help people when they need it. Who will help you if you are injured or made sick because of your work in a hospital, doctor’s office, or nursing home? Could your family survive if you were unable to work? The good news is that each state has a law that makes nurses just like you are protected by workers’ compensation insurance.

What Is Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

Workers’ compensation insurance isn’t something that you, as an employee, sign up for on a voluntary basis. The money doesn’t come out of your check. It is an insurance policy that most employers (including hospitals, urgent care clinics, nursing homes, and other medical facilities) are required by state law to have in place.

Workers’ compensation covers who are hurt or made sick (from things such as asbestos and exposure to chemicals) while on the job. It can pay for your visits to the doctor, surgery, medication, and other bills that you incur as a result of your injury. It even covers part of your wages while you are off work to recover.

Risks in Nursing

As a nurse, you do what you can to keep your patients and yourself safe. You wear special shoes to keep from slipping. You use proper lifting techniques to move patients and handle heavy equipment. You take training on how to handle spills of chemicals and bodily fluids. Yet, regardless of everything that you do to be as safe as possible, you face special risks that can leave you injured or facing a lifetime of illness.

Lifting and moving patients, helping patients walk to the bathroom, and slipping and falling because of a spill are all activities that can hurt your back and neck. You could hurt your shoulders badly if a patient falls and you have to catch them. Mechanical lifts or other machines that you use on the job could experience a technical failure and also injure you. Working in an older environment can expose you to asbestos. You could also be around chemicals that can cause lung problems.

If you are hurt during your nursing shift, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation.

Hurt During Your Nursing Shift? Here’s What You Should Do

It can be scary to get injured at work even when you have medical knowledge. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. If you are hurt during your nursing shift, you should immediately tell the managing nurse. Even if you don’t feel like you’re seriously injured, you should report it right away. This helps protect your rights. It can also protect others from being injured in the same way. If there is a spill of some sort, it can be cleaned up to keep other nurses or medical professionals from being hurt, too.
  2. Your work environment is super busy and you may feel obligated to just brush it all off and get back to work. Before you continue in your nursing duties, complete an accident report. It’s easier to remember all of the facts when they happen instead of trying to remember them a day or a week later. Also, take note of the information for the OSHA representative for the medical facility. They can help you follow up on your workers’ comp claim.
  3. Get medical attention even if you don’t think you’re hurt. As a nurse, you know that some internal injuries don’t have symptoms. Most workers’ comp policies specify a doctor that you can see without paying out of pocket. Of course, if you are seriously injured you should seek emergency medical attention. You are also allowed to see your own doctor. Keep any receipts that show you’ve had to pay out of pocket. Those expenses may be eligible for reimbursement. However, if you’ve been exposed to bodily fluids, get emergency testing.
  4. Make an appointment to talk with a workers’ comp attorney who has experience with cases involving medical facilities. This will help protect your rights. Often, your employer and their insurance company won’t necessarily have your best interests in mind when it’s time to settle your claim. If you’ve been hurt and cannot work as a nurse anymore, you must have an attorney to make sure that you get the training or compensation that you need to move on in the future.

Lewis V. Chateau D’arbonne Nurse Care Center

According to Google Scholar, in 2002, Tonya Lewis worked as a nursing assistant at Chateau D’arbonne Nurse Care Center. Ms. Lewis and another employee attempted to move a male patient who weighed around 200 pounds. She stated that she felt a pop in her back. She tried to return to work, but could not because of the pain. Because of the medications prescribed, she tested positive on a drug test performed by her employer. She was terminated. Her employer attempted to deny her workers’ comp benefits or continue to provide her with medical treatment despite her ruptured disc. The employer tried to maintain that because of previous back injuries, they weren’t responsible. However, the trial court awarded Ms. Lewis with compensation. Chateau appealed and lost the appeal.

Protect Your Rights

As the above case illustrates, it is imperative that nurses who have been injured speak with a workers’ comp attorney. Protect your legal rights and get a legal professional on your side.