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Claim Costs, Musculoskeletal Health, and Work Exposure in Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapist Assistants, and Occupational Therapist Assistants: A Comparison Among Long-Term Care Jobs



Claim Costs, Musculoskeletal Health, and Work Exposure in Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapist Assistants, and Occupational Therapist Assistants: A Comparison Among Long-Term Care Jobs



Physical Therapy 99(2): 183-193



Patient/resident-handling tasks are physically demanding and associated with musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among nursing personnel. The routine performance of such tasks by physical therapists and occupational therapists during treatment can cause similar problems. This study characterized the magnitude of MSDs and the risk factors for MSDs in physical therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapist assistants, and occupational therapist assistants (collectively called "therapy personnel" for this study) and compared them with those of other nursing home workers, especially nursing staff. This was a cross-sectional study. Workers' compensation claim (WCC) data from 1 year of experience in a long-term care company were used to compute claim rates by body region, nature, and cause of injury, and the costs per case and per full-time-equivalent employee. Data regarding musculoskeletal symptoms, use of patient/resident-lifting equipment, and perceived physical and psychological job demands were obtained from a concurrent cross-sectional survey of workers from 24 long-term care facilities. About 80% of the WCCs were related to musculoskeletal incidents in nursing aides and therapy personnel. WCC costs paid per case for therapy personnel were more than twice those for nursing staff for both ergonomic and resident-handling incidents. Prevalence of low back pain in therapy personnel was the same as in nursing aides (48%) but involved more chronic, milder pain. About half of therapy personnel reported "never" or "rarely" using patient/resident-lifting equipment. Therapy personnel, nursing aides, and housekeeping/dietary/maintenance personnel reported the highest physical job demands. Causal inference cannot be determined due to the cross-sectional nature of the survey data. Study findings are relevant only to therapy work in long-term care settings because exposures vary in other health care settings (hospitals, outpatient, and others). MSD prevalence and claim costs in therapy personnel are high enough to deserve more attention. The low use of patient/resident-lifting equipment in therapy could increase the risk for MSDs. Future studies with comprehensive ergonomic analysis of therapist tasks and recommendations to reduce injuries are warranted.

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Accession: 069077340

Download citation: RISBibTeXText

PMID: 31222334

DOI: 10.1093/ptj/pzy137


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