Health Care

Just about everybody who has studied the hospital industry agrees that it needs to confront the epidemic that plagues many of its staff: Tens of thousands of nursing employees suffer debilitating injuries every year, mainly from doing part of their everyday jobs — moving and lifting patients. The problem is, nobody agrees how to get hospitals to take aggressive action.

As NPR has been reporting in its Injured Nurses series, nursing employees suffer more back and arm injuries than just about any other occupations.

Shelley Kofler / KERA News

WASHINGTON — Sen. Ted Cruz said Tuesday he is signing up his family for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act, a law the Republican presidential candidate has vowed to repeal should he win the White House.

Cruz formally launched his presidential campaign on Monday, and his wife, Heidi Cruz, began an unpaid leave of absence from her job as a managing director in the Houston office of Goldman Sachs. That meant the family would soon lose access to health insurance through Mrs. Cruz’s job, triggering a need for the Cruz family to find a new policy.

The case of Terry Cawthorn and Mission Hospital, in Asheville, N.C., gives a glimpse of how some hospital officials around the country have shrugged off an epidemic.

Cawthorn was a nurse at Mission for more than 20 years. Her supervisor testified under oath that she was "one of my most reliable employees."

Scientists say nurses like Sunny Vespico are prime examples of what nursing schools and hospitals are doing wrong: They keep teaching nursing employees how to lift and move patients in ways that could inadvertently result in career-ending back injuries.

When Tove Schuster raced to help a fellow nurse lift a patient at Crozer-Chester Medical Center near Philadelphia in March 2010, she didn't realize she was about to become a troubling statistic.

While working the overnight shift, she heard an all-too-common cry: "Please, I need help. My patient has fallen on the floor."

The patient was a woman who weighed more than 300 pounds. So Schuster did what nursing schools and hospitals across the country teach: She gathered a few colleagues, and they lifted the patient as a team.

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