What is the prevalence of low back pain in student nurses pre, during and post clinical placement?

  • Charlotte Rebecca Lee

    Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Science by Research


    Aims: The main aims of the study were to identify the prevalence, severity and duration of low back pain experienced by student nurses prior to, during and after clinical placements. Also, to ascertain whether a history of low back pain is a predisposing factor to concurrent episodes during clinical placement. 
    Background: The nursing profession exhibits high rates of musculoskeletal injuries, specifically low back pain (Smedley et al. 2003). Occupational low back pain is commonly cited as a significant problem for nurses resulting in time off work and where serious, permanent disability. Many nurses have had to leave work due to the disabling effects of low back pain such as incontinence problems, immobility and use of medication. Despite there being a wide range of reasons why nurses are pre-disposed to low back pain such as age, fitness, workload intensity, staffing ratios and equipment, manual handling of patients is viewed as the key causative factor (Hignett 1996). These risks are also prevalent to student nurses where they work alongside qualified nurses in these high risk environments. Little research exists regarding student nurses and their risks to low back pain, giving justification for this research. 
    Method: A quantitative method was used to investigate the prevalence of low back pain using a questionnaire. The questionnaire was piloted and peer reviewed to increase its validity and reliability. Results were analysed using SPSS version 17 and Microsoft Excel for charts and graphs. 
    Results: 152 questionnaires were returned. Respondents experienced low back pain before, during and after placement (48.7%, 70.4% and 48.7% respectively). The mean VAS rating before placement is 1.6 (S.D 2.1, range=8), during placement is 3.8 (S.D 2.6, range=9) and after placement is 2 (S.D 2.4, range=8). Spearman’s rank test shows there is a weak positive correlation between VAS pain scores of before and during placement (rs=0.364, p=<0.000), and a weak positive correlation between VAS pain scale before starting the course and since finishing placement (rs=0.293, p=<0.000). The strongest correlation between the VAS pain scales is experience of low back pain during placement and since finishing placement (rs=0.665, p=>0.000). 
    Discussion/Conclusion: Findings from this research provide evidence to suggest that student nurses are at risk of experiencing low back pain during their university course, especially while on clinical placement. The specific risks for this remain unclear, leading to a gap in the literature base where more research is needed to lower the risks and therefore the prevalence of low back pain in student nurses.
    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SupervisorMargaret Goodman (Supervisor) & Elinor Clarke (Supervisor)


    • nursing
    • clinical placement
    • nurse education
    • low back pain

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