Safer patient handling
HealthMay 11, 2017

Safer patient handling

Nurses and clinicians should follow these tips to avoid injuries during patients transfers.

Have you or any co-workers ever been inadvertently injured while transferring a patient?

As we celebrate Nurses Week 2017 and this year's theme of ‘Nursing: The Balance of Mind, Body, and Spirit,’ it's important to focus on working smart to avoid getting hurt on the job.

Nursing professionals and other caregivers responsible for patient transfers have reported more musculoskeletal injuries than workers in other jobs requiring manual labor. In 2011, the American Nurses Association (ANA) reported that 38% of nurses experienced back injuries severe enough to require taking time off work to recover. Estimates of the costs of lost work time range widely, from $29 million to $1.7 billion nationwide.

In part because of these statistics, the ANA and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) have made a concerted effort to encourage the creation of lift teams and to promote “zero” manual lifting to reduce the risk of low back injuries from patient handling. This recommendation is based on the premise that assistive devices reduce a caregiver's risk of injury.

Safe transfer checklist

The sample checklist below from OSHA highlights many of the important components of a safe patient handling program, including development, management, and staff involvement, needs assessments, equipment, education and training, and evaluation.

Click here to download a PDF copy.

Use the checklist to help identify the components of your safe patient handling program that are well developed, as well as those that need further development. Customize the checklist by adding or deleting components specific to your hospital.

Technique is key

The proper technique and special equipment can help ensure safe transfers. Nylon tubes, roller boards, and roller trays, for example, are friction-reducing devices that can aid in patient handling and should be used whenever possible.

Proper body position is critical for minimizing low back peak torque that includes the caregiver's body mass when making a transfer. Proper positioning is important to minimize peak pulling forces experienced by caregivers completing horizontal transfers of patients. This is true whether a nylon tube, roller board, or roller tray is used.

Even with proper body positioning and assistive devices, there is always a risk of injury. So remember to use caution and patience when transferring patients.

For further information, check out a FREE preview of our our ‘Mandatory Program Set’ in the Lippincott Professional Development Collection institutional competency validation software. This robust online program set includes a CE-accredited course on Body Mechanics, and is specifically designed to assist healthcare institutions to meet The Joint Commission (TJC) training requirements and document staff proficiency.

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