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Injuries Among Surgeons Carry Hidden Costs

Cora Nucci, for HealthLeaders Media, December 2, 2013

Hospital and health system HR departments rarely receive injury reports from surgeons, but the financial consequences—specifically among orthopedic surgeons—are high, and the problem will only worsen as the workforce ages, a study shows.


Slideshow

>>>Slideshow: Occupational Injuries Among Orthopedic Surgeons

Workplace injuries in healthcare are not uncommon among nursing staff, who are exposed to needlesticks, back injuries, and even acts of violence.

It's a big problem and it is financially draining. The cost of total workplace injuries in the United States reaches into the billions of dollars annually, when direct costs (medical care) and indirect costs (lost productivity) are factored.

But hospital and health system HR departments rarely receive injury reports from physicians and surgeons, who have an even higher financial impact than RNs. The lack of reporting isn't because physicians aren't getting hurt, though. A study of occupational injury among orthopedic surgeons published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery demonstrates that injuries are not rare.

"Performing orthopaedic surgery requires many hours per week in body positions known to contribute to musculoskeletal injuries," the report states. Among the most physically demanding procedures are total joint replacement of the knee or hip, spine cases, and femur fractures in trauma patients, report author Manish K. Sethi, MD, told me in a phone interview.

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