Healthcare News & Insights

Prevent lifting injuries and get patients better, faster

A priority for most hospital executives is to get patients better faster and keep them from being readmitted. One way to do that is to prevent lifting injuries in nurses.

What does that have to do with getting patients better faster?

Studies have shown that if hospitals can increase the amount of time nurses spend with patients, they’ll fall less and have fewer incidents of pressure ulcers, which for most patients means they’ll recover faster. So keep your nurses healthy, keep your nurse-to-patient ratio up and your patients will recover faster.

The official guideline from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health says the maximum safe limit a nurse is supposed to lift is 35 lbs. Most facilities, however, don’t follow the rule.

According to Amy Williamson, a workplace safety coordinator for Baptist Hospital in Nashville, TN, a nurse typically lifts 1.8 tons during the course of a day.

That may seem like a lot, until you find out that over the past two years about 20,000 patients at Baptist Hospital weighed between 200 to 299 lbs., and about 2,200 patients weighed between 300 to 499 lbs.

So there were a lot of chances for injuries.

Keep everyone safe

In the healthcare industry alone, back injuries can cost billions of dollars and are the primary reason nurses leave their careers.

According to The Tennessean, a 2011 health and safety survey by the American Nurses Association showed disabling injuries from lifting are a top concern among 62% of nurses.

Whether it’s helping turn patients in bed or get to the restroom, all that stress really takes its toll on a nurse’s back.

To avoid these potential career-ending injuries many hospitals are investing in lift devices. They see it as an investment in their future by keeping their nurses injury-free.

One of those facilities is Baptist Hospital, which has been recognized by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration for its efforts to prevent workplace injuries.

After witnessing many of its nurses undergo surgeries for their injuries, it started a pilot project to prevent them. It consisted of three key components: equipment, training and awareness.

Now the nurses use the buddy approach, which matches new users with people who are skilled at using the lift devices. That’s boosted compliance.

But the big bonus is that Baptist ended up reducing its patient handling injuries by  more than 74% from 2008 to 2011.

Not only do the portable lift devices protect nurses from injuries, but they protect patients from injuries as well. They also lower the incidents of bedsores, since caregivers can move patients around more easily — a win-win situation for hospitals, nurses and patients.

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