Safe Patient Handling
The safe lifting and movement of patients, known as Safe Patient Handling (SPH), is a major concern for hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitative facilities, and home healthcare workers. In order to protect patients and keep nursing staff healthy, many facilities are implementing SPH programs.
Additionally, pending state and federal legislation supported by the American Nurses Association (ANA) and similar organizations could require healthcare facilities to put such procedures into place. Statistically, injuries to healthcare workers comprise a large portion of worker's compensation claims, which ultimately is costly for the facility, the state, and the taxpayer.
Costs associated with lost and restricted work days add to the expense of patient care. Government studies show that in 2006, nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants had one of the highest incidence rates of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) that required days away from work. Registered Nurses (RNs) ranked fifth.
One study showed that Washington state alone had more than $32 million in worker's compensation claims in the healthcare industry because of injuries.
Frequent heavy lifting of patients is the main reason for worker injuries. While proper training in lifting techniques may help, many studies have found that manual lifting simply is not safe. For one thing, today's patients are frequently obese and nursing staff is not only older, but 90 percent are female and unable to lift an adult's weight. This combination can be disastrous when moving a hospital resident.
The hospital environment itself also presents a problem during a manual patient lift. Small bathrooms and rooms full of medical equipment and furniture keep nursing staff from being able to properly position themselves when lifting. Manually moving a patient from a bed requires bending forward in such a way that the caregiver's spine is in a vulnerable position. Injury is an inevitable result.
The solution is a Safe Patient Handling program, according to the ANA Safe Patient Handing website. Such a program offers multiple benefits to patients, caregivers and employers. It should include worker education, mechanical lifting equipment, training on that equipment, and a written lifting policy.
Patients benefit from improved care because workers are healthy as well as a reduced risk of falls or other injury. Caregivers benefit because of reduced risk of injuries, more job satisfaction, and improved morale because of the availability of additional staff due to injury reduction. Employers benefit because patients are happier and safer, worker's compensation costs may drop, employees will lose fewer workdays, and overtime and sick leave will be reduced.