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New York’s registered nurses are seeking special retirement benefits under a new state bill that would define their profession as “physically taxing.” “Nurses are on their feet 24-7 and an estimated 38 percent have back injuries because of their profession,” said Nancy Webber, a spokesperson for the New York State Nurses Association, citing research from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. Currently, assistant gardener, carpenter and pest control aide are among a long list of physically taxing positions recognized by the city’s Office of Labor Relations. Labor activists urged the office to include nursing in that category, but were turned down, prompting their pursuit of state and local legislation. Other states, including Massachusetts, Washington, California and Texas, have introduced and passed legislation to limit nurses’ patient handling to reduce their risk of injury. “Lifting patients and dealing with needles can be debilitating,” said Jonathan Bennett, public affairs director at the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, a local nonprofit. Under the proposed legislation, city nurses and licensed midwives could retire at age 50 after 25 years of service with improved benefits. Roughly 25 percent of hospital nurses leave the profession before age 40 because of exhaustion, according to a 2002 state survey. “The benefits of the law should make the nursing profession more attractive,” said Webber. (K. Angelova)

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