Reducing Nurse Injuries with Safe Patient Handling

Healthcare Training Resource
September 5, 2012 — 1,197 views  
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Patient handling is a major cause of injury among nurses and patients. Patients are increasingly older and heavier, making it more difficult for nurses to move them. The act of lifting heavier patients has led to many nurses developing musculoskeletal disorders of the back and other parts of the body. Nurses often have the highest rate of back and shoulder injuries. These injuries lead to major claim costs for healthcare industries. 

Aging Nurses Have Higher Turnover Resulting from Patient Handling Concerns

Another issue with safe patient handling is the aging registered nurses who have a difficult time lifting patients. These nurses often have high turnover as a result. However there is no literature to support that younger and physically fit nurses are less likely to be injured than older nurses.

Using Ceiling Lifts

One way to reduce the difficulties of lifting patients for registered nurses is to use ceiling lifts, which are widely available and save space. Allowing nurses to more easily handle patients through the ceiling lift can help reduce nurse turnover. However, ceiling lifts are helpful only if nurses have a consistent process for lifting patients. Some hospitals do not purchase and utilize ceiling lifts because they feel that they are not affordable. However, the long-term benefits of the ceiling lift outweigh the initial costs, especially since hospitals pay less money in claims.

Obesity Poses a Challenge

Some patients are so obese that some nursing homes are not able to admit the patients. Nursing homes that are able to admit the patients usually use patient handling devices such as total body lifts and sit and stand devices. 

Equipment Can be Heavy Itself

While appropriate equipment can help nurses manage patients, some forms of equipment are difficult for nurses to lift and can contribute to the load that nurses are placed under. Still, these devices can help nurses overall. 

Training for Nurses

In addition to using appropriate equipment, nurses are more able to overcome the difficulties of lifting patients when they have appropriate training. For this reason, nurses should participate in training programs that teach them safe patient handling practices. For example, the training program should instruct nurses on the types of patients who need assistance and which types of equipment are most appropriate for which patients. The best training programs are partially based on the input of the employees. They must be regularly surveyed to determine the concerns that they have when working with patients.

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