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PROPERTY & CASUALTY
APR 03, 2020
Safe Patient Handling
When it comes to safe patient handling, there are many myths about precautions, procedures and more. Are you able to separate fact from fiction? Keep reading to learn some of the most common assumptions regarding patient handling, and how you can improve your practice in these areas.
Education and training are effective in reducing injuries.
There are several reasons why training alone is not effective in reducing injuries. Body mechanics training is based on research that is not likely generalizable to the nursing practice. Manual patient handling tasks are intrinsically unsafe because they are beyond the capabilities of the general workforce. This means it’s also difficult for nurses to translate classroom content into direct patient care. Therefore, traditional injury prevention programs based primarily on training and attempts to modify the behavior of workers have not demonstrated widespread success.
High risk behaviors in nursing are restricted to patient lifting.
High risk tasks completed on a horizontal plane are also common. These tasks include lateral transfers from bed to stretcher, or tasks that involve repositioning a patient in bed. Owen & Garg identified 16 stressful patient handling tasks in nursing. The most stressful tasks identified in rank order include:
Transferring a patient from toilet to chair
Transferring a patient from chair to toilet
Transferring a patient from chair to bed
Transferring a patient from bed to chair
Transferring a patient from bathtub to chair
Transferring a patient from chair lift to chair
Weighing a patient
Lifting a patient up in bed
Repositioning a patient in bed side-to-side
Repositioning a patient in a chair
Changing an absorbent pad
Making a bed with a patient in it
Undressing a patient
Feeding a bed-ridden patient
Making a bed while the patient is not in it
Various lifting and patient handling equipment and devices are equally effective.
Equipment needs to be evaluated for ergonomics, as well as user acceptance. In a study conducted to redesign at-risk nursing tasks, Nelson et al found that lifting devices were not intuitive, and staff had difficulty using some equipment as it was designed. Furthermore, sling attachment mechanisms varied, and some were significantly more stressful than others to use.
A biomechanical evaluation of friction-reducing devices showed statistically significant differences in spinal loading between products, where cost was not predictive of effectiveness. Lifting devices that require manual pumping to raise the lift can be stressful to shoulders and may be more stressful than a two-person manual transfer.
Specialty hospital mattresses, designed to reduce patient risk for pressure ulcers, have been shown to increase caregiver exertion by 17 percent, by allowing the patient to sink low into the mattress and reducing access to the patient.
Amerisure can help your healthcare facility determine if it’s practicing safe patient handling. We offer safe patient handling training, as well as assistance developing your patient handling practice. To learn more, contact your local Amerisure risk management consultant at