TRENTON. - More than half of New Jersey hospital nurses have had back and other injuries from lifting patients and been exposed to "superbugs" such as MRSA, while one-third have faced workplace violence and been exposed to pathogens in blood.

That's according to a new survey by the state's biggest nurses union. Results were to be presented today to the Senate Budget Committee, which is considering two bills to require hospitals and nursing homes to make changes to prevent violence and to protect staff from on-the-job injuries.

The Health Professionals and Allied Employees Union argues that injuries and illnesses related to work exacerbate the long-standing shortage of nurses, by driving people to other jobs and by triggering sometimes-lengthy medical leaves.

A mail and Internet survey with responses from more than 1,000 registered nurses in New Jersey was conducted for the union this year by Anzalone Research.

The survey found more than one-quarter of respondents had a work-related injury within the last five years.

Other findings included:

_ 62 percent said they had been exposed to "superbugs," hard-to-kill pathogens including MRSA, a potentially deadly drug-resistant staph infection.

_ 52 percent reported they had had back and other injuries from moving and lifting patients.

_ 33 percent said they had experienced violence in their hospital or nursing home.

_ 32 percent said they had suffered a needlestick or other exposure to blood-borne pathogens.

_ 15 percent said they had been exposed to chemotherapy drugs or other toxic chemicals.

In addition, 58 percent of respondents said they have considered leaving their profession due to such hazards. *