Aims. To investigate the incidence of ambulatory care visits among female nursing staff in Taiwan. Background. Literature frequently indicates increased risks of needlestick injury and musculoskeletal disorders among practicing nurses. With increased workload in the healthcare system, nursing staff could also be vulnerable to other diseases. Design. A retrospective cohort study design including 27,624 female nursing staff with a contract with Taiwan's National Health Insurance (NHI) programme between 2001-2004. Methods. Information on ambulatory care visits was retrieved from the NHI claim data. Comparison groups included other female medical personnel and active non-medical working women. Incidence rates of ambulatory care visits were calculated using person-year approach. Rate ratio adjusted for potential confounders was estimated from the Poisson regression model. Results. The nurse cohort developed a total of 781,352 ambulatory care visits, representing an incidence rate of 85,285/104 person-years. Compared with the other female medical personnel, female nurses had significantly elevated incidence of genitourinary [adjusted rate ratio (ARR) = 1·20], circulatory (ARR = 1·14), mental (ARR = 1·12), infectious/parasitic diseases (ARR = 1·11) and pregnancy/birth complications (ARR = 1·07). Significantly increased incidence sustained for both infectious/parasitic diseases and pregnancy/birth complications as the nurse cohort was compared with the active non-medical working women. The nurses, on the contrary, had significantly lower ARRs than the comparison groups of neoplasm, injury, metabolic, respiratory, digestive and musculoskeletal diseases. Conclusions. Female nurses had increased incidences of certain types of systemic illness when compared with other medical personnel and with women working outside of the health industry. Whether the findings found in this study were region specific or could be applicable to other nations, requires further investigations. Relevance to clinical practice. Policy makers and hospital administrators must not overlook nurses' potentially unseen health problems. A mandatory periodical physical examination for nursing staff must be considered.
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