Workorganization and low back pain in nursing personnel

Mary Louise Skovron, Michael N. Mulvihill, Robert C. Sterling, Margareta Nordin, Ghislaine Tougas, Maureen Gallagher, Edward J. Speedling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


Nursing personnel are at a high risk from occupational low back injury. Work organization has been suggested as one factor playing a part in the aetiology of occupational low back pain. Baseline data for a prospective epidemiology study were gathered by means of a questionnaire. One part of the questionnaire elicited characteristics of work organization, perceived autonomy, the relationship with head nurse and satisfaction in the relationship with co-workers. Information on history of musculoskeletal problems, reported frequency of lifting and personal characteristics was also gathered.Of 787 nursing staff at two acute care hospitals, 154 (19-6%) reported troublesome low back pain occurring within the previous 6 months. From univariate analyses, such characteristics of work organization as shift, type of schedule and primary versus functional nursing were not associated with low back pain. The relationship with head nurse and perceived autonomy of the job also werenot related to recent back pain. Recent low back pain was significantly associated withyounger age, the job category ‘registered nurse’ and greater satisfaction in relationships with co-workers. Theseassociations were confirmed in multivariate analysis. None of the work organization factors examined, with the exception of satisfaction with co-workers, were associated withback pain in this study. Moreover, thepositive association of satisfaction with coworkers suggests that interventions to improve working relationships may not be helpfulin prevention programmes. To some extent, these results are susceptible to biases resulting from selective attrition from nursingandselective participation in the study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-366
Number of pages8
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1987
Externally publishedYes


  • Health care workers
  • Low back pain
  • Occupational health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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