Aim. To examine the relationship of low back pain prevalence and treatment to personal and work-related characteristics among intensive care unit nurses.
Background. Back pain is the most common work-related health problem among nurses.
Design. A cross-sectional study including a survey conducted in 2007.
Methods. The study sample included 1345 nurses in 65 intensive care units in 22 South Korean hospitals. Back pain prevalence was measured by the frequency of back pain (always, once a week, once a month or once in two or more months) during the past year. Multilevel logistic regression analyses were conducted to examine the relationship between back pain and personal and work-related characteristics.
Results. The mean age of nurses was 27·2 years. Overall, 90·3% of nurses had back pain at least once a month (21·9% always, 40·7% once a week and 27·7% once a month). Only 18·3% had received medical treatment for their back pain. Compared with neonatal intensive care unit nurses, who had the lowest prevalence, nurses in other specialties, excluding paediatric intensive care units, had a greater likelihood of back pain. Specialty medical (e.g. cardiology, neurology) intensive care unit nurses had the greatest probability of back pain and treatment. Perceiving staffing as inadequate and working 6 or more night shifts per month were related to a 64% increase (OR = 1·64; 95% CI = 1·16–2·33) and 48% increase (OR = 1·48; 95% CI = 1·10–1·99) in back pain, respectively. Nurses with 2–4 years of working experience in intensive care units had the greatest probability of back pain and treatment.
Conclusions. A high prevalence of back pain was found in intensive care unit nurses, even though they comprise a very young workforce in Korea.
Relevance to clinical practice. Improving nurse staffing, reducing the frequency of night shifts and assessing risk factors in specific intensive care unit specialties are suggested to decrease back pain prevalence.