1. The problem of work related musculoskeletal disorders of the low back in nursing personnel has been well documented in the literature by cross sectional studies showing high prevalence rates in licensed nurses and nursing aides. However, it is difficult to compare findings among these studies because of the use of nonstandardized symptom surveys, variations in case definitions, and other methodological inconsistencies. 2. Measuring the change in current back pain prevalence yields more timely information about the effectiveness of an ergonomic intervention than assessing injury incidence rates, because of the high percent of nursing staff members who work in pain but delay filing workers' compensation claims. 3. As employers attempt to reduce manual handling injuries, occupational health nurses may be called upon to survey workers for musculoskeletal symptom prevalence and document the effectiveness of ergonomic interventions. Before using or developing any musculoskeletal disorder symptom survey for workplace surveillance or research, occupational health nurses should determine whether the survey has adequate reliability, validity, responsiveness, and practicality.