Australian emergency nurses’ lumbar movement during a shift: An observational study

Published:April 08, 2021DOI:



      Emergency nurses are at higher risk than the average worker of experiencing lumbar pain. This is the first study to undertake real time monitoring to quantify lumbar movements of nurses working in the emergency department (ED).


      Emergency nurses at a single Australian ED were recruited for a prospective observational case study. Participants worked in four discrete clinical areas of the ED; In-charge, triage, resuscitation, and cubicles. Data collected included participant demographics, lumbar pain pre- and post-shift, and real-time recording of lumbar movements.


      Sixty-two nurses participated. There were statistically significant differences in time spent standing (p = 0.005), sitting (p ≤ 0.001) and in locomotion (moving) (p ≤ 0.001) when compared by clinical role. Triage nurses spent over half their shift sitting, had the most sustained (> 30 s) flexions (60+ degrees) and had a median of 4 periods of uninterrupted sitting (10−30 mins) per shift.


      Differences in movement demands were identified based on various clinical roles in the ED. Triage was associated with greater periods of uninterrupted sitting and with greater degrees of sustained flexion, both of which are predictors for back pain. This study provides foundation evidence that triage may not be the most appropriate location for staff returning from back injury.


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