Date of Defense

Spring 4-13-2001


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

Susan Olson, Nursing

Second Advisor

John Austin, Psychology

Third Advisor

Daryle Gardner-Bonneau, Psychology


back injury, air rescue, back pain, ergonomics


Health care workers as a group frequently suffer from low back disorders. Fuortes, Shi, Zhang, Zwerling, and Schootman (1994) found that nurses in a large university hospital demonstrated a back injury incidence rate second only to employees of a physical plant. Nurses' aides demonstrated a back injury incidence rate of almost three times the nurses, and 1.3 times that of the physical plant employees. Patient handling tasks have been found to create forces as high as 4500 to 6800 Newtons (N) on the spinal column (Marras, 2000). Yet, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has established a safety limit of just 3400 N. The lifting tasks that air ambulance crews perform may violate established standards for safe lifting activities. No standards currently exist that relate to the specialized nature of lifting tasks routinely performed by air ambulance crews. Discusses the causes of back injury for air ambulance crews, includes a survey of air ambulance workers, and concludes that ambulance crew discomfort deserves attention.


Principal Investigators: Susan D. Olson, PhD, MHS, RN, and Angela Kawczyk, BS, EMT-B

Co-Investigators: Daryle Gardner-Bonneau, PhD, MSIE, Jonathan Hopkins, MD, Paul Blostein, MD, Daniel P. Stewart, MD, Kathy Nichols, RN, BSN, EMT-P, John Austin, PhD, and Bobby J. Hopewell, BS, EMT-P

Access Setting

Honors Thesis-Campus Only