Safe patient handling means ensuring safety for both healthcare provider and patient. Handling a patient (moving, carrying, pushing, pulling, holding, restraining, lifting and lowering) is often complex and unpredictable, impacted by the patient’s physical condition, mental orientation, and personality. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics(1), nursing professionals suffer more musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) than any other occupation. Overexertion associated with patient handling is the primary cause of injury. Repetitive work practices, nurse’s age or stature, duration of work tasks, weight of patients, work habits, and knowledge are other contributing factors. The human and the economic costs include: long term injuries; absence from work; staff turnover; and increased costs to healthcare facilities. For example, the Veterans Health Administration spent approximately $22 million a year on caregiver injuries associated with patient handling.(2)
There are limits to the load people can handle without risk of harm. When the load is another person it usually exceeds those limits. Many states such as California, New York, Texas and Ohio are now passing or introducing “No-Lift” Laws to protect nurses from injuries resulting from unsafe patient handling and lifting. New laws require healthcare facilities to establish safe patient handling committees, programs, practices and zero-lift policies.
Understanding the issues involved in creating a safe patient handling environment, decreasing risk and limiting work-related injury while maintaining the patient’s dignity, respect, and quality of care, is essential for all those involved in safe patient care.
2. Kris Siddharthan, Audrey Nelson, Hope Tiesman, FangFei Chen. Cost Effectiveness of a Multifaceted Program for Safe Patient Handling. Advances in Patient Safety: Vol. 3
Patty Taylor is Vice President of Professional Education and Clinical Affairs for Ansell. She is a registered nurse with international experience focusing on perioperative safety, quality and education.