The relationship between work-related musculoskeletal disorders, absenteeism and visits to the staff clinic by nurses in an eThekwini District hospital
Kumalo, Babusisiwe Thandi Evan
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Introduction Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are the most commonly reported work-related illnesses impacting on the quality of life of nurses. Absenteeism, work restriction, loss of income and disability are related outcomes. Nurses are at a higher risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSD) compared to other healthcare professionals because of the nature of their duties. Problem statement The relationship between work-related musculoskeletal disorders, absenteeism and visits to the staff clinic by nurses has not been established in South Africa. Purpose The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence of WMSD in nurses and its relationship to absenteeism and visits to the staff clinic by nurses in a selected eThekwini District hospital. Research method A cross-sectional quantitative descriptive survey was conducted in two stages namely the prospective cross-sectional survey of nurses and the retrospective review of records. A random sample of 231 nurses was selected, proportionally, from all nursing ranks and invited to fill in the self-administered musculoskeletal questionnaire. Results The lifetime prevalence of WMSD in nurses in this study was 77% with the twelve months prevalence of 67% and the seven days prevalence of 43%. The prevalence of low back pain was higher (21% for twelve months and 47% for seven days) than that of other body regions with a higher tendency (65%) of WMSD affecting more than two body regions. Although the prevalence and patterns of WMSD was almost the same across all nursing ranks, nurses working in the Out Patients Department reported the highest prevalence (22%). There was no significant relationship between age, gender and smoking; however, a strong correlation between WMSD and participation in physical exercise, work task and workload was noted. No relationship could be established between WMSD and staff visits to the staff clinic as well as amount of sick leave taken. Conclusion This study showed that WMSD is high in the selected hospital. Nurses working in the Outpatients department reported the most WMSD; body parts affected was not related to age, gender, nurse rank or unit in which the nurse worked. There is a problem of under- reporting of WMSD. Nurses working in this hospital have an option of attending their private health service providers even following a WMSD. In these cases the staff clinic is unable to keep accurate statistics of WMSD, conduct reviews and proper management of the WMSD.