WSNA Awarded Grant to Support Safe Patient Handling
The Department of Labor and Industries awarded Washington State University, in partnership with the Washington State Nurses Association, a Safety & Health Investment Project (SHIP) grant in the amount of approximately $73,600 to support training and education of nurses for safe patient handling. The title of this project is "Protecting nurses as a valuable resource."
With nursing as a critical health care profession, on-the-job injuries, known to be under-reported, can severely impact quality of life for a nurse and potentially shorten a nurse’s career. A 2007 report by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries noted reasons for delayed reporting of claims. Of those injured, 4% reported that they were unaware of the need to file a claim and 40% attempted self care. Nurses may be in the 40% population group to attempt self-care either through self-medication, normal muscular-skeletal treatment applications, use of complimentary or alternative treatments such as acupuncture or chiropractic care. Washington State L&I data noted over a four year period that over 600 nurses reported claims that may be directly related to patient handling or environmental work site risks pertaining to falls or equipment. The cost of these claims ranged between $500 to $43,000 per nurse impacting the employer, state, and nurse. Nursing is a hands-on profession. Injury to arms, legs, back, neck, and shoulders can impact the long-term career of a nurse. The costs to educate and train a nurse average from $15,000 - $40,000 for college education and approximately $80,000 in employer investments for novice to expert sub-specialty training.
The goal of this project is to keep nurses in the work place injury free and to improve safe patient handling through a multimodal educational approach. This project has completed four deliverables:
- Develop an online continuing education course for RNs in the State of Washington. You can complete this module by going to the WSNA CNE website.
- Develop a palm card to guide nurses in their assessment of their work environment and safe patient handling practices. Download Palm Card (PDF)
- Develop, an ergonomic awareness video to be included in ADN/BSN nursing education curriculum programs throughout Washington State. You can obtain a free copy of this video by contacting the WSNA offices at 206-575-7979.
- Develop a Guidelines Paper on Safe Patient Handing for RNs in the State of Washington. Download Guidelines (PDF)
The project manager for this grant was Denise Smart, DrPH, RN, of Washington State University, and the Supporting Partner Team Member was Sally Watkins, PhD, RN, the Assistant Executive Director of WSNA.
Nurses Celebrate Passage of Safe Patient Lifting Law
March 8, 2006
The Washington State Legislature today passed legislation (House Bill 1672) to promote
safe patient handling and prevent workplace injuries amongst registered nurses and
health care workers. This is a top legislative priority for the Washington
State Nurses Association (WSNA) this session, and the victory is the result of efforts
made by the Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) along with other unions and
hospitals. The Washington Senate voted 48-0 today to approve the bill. Yesterday,
the Washington House of Representatives voted 85-13 in favor of the legislation.
“Registered nurses throughout the State applaud the passage of this critical
legislation and are celebrating this key victory which will reduce musculoskeletal
injury for nurses at the bedside,” said Kim Armstrong, BSN, RN, President
of WSNA. Health care workers are the leader among all industries in Washington
State for musculoskeletal disorders, with injury rates higher than other dangerous
occupations such as construction, agriculture, manufacturing and transportation.
The manual moving, transferring and re-positioning of patients is the primary cause
for the high rates of back injury in the health care industry.
“Health care lags way behind many other industries as they have mechanized
to remove the causes of acute and chronic back injuries. These injuries not
only lead to higher worker compensation and insurance costs, but also drive many
registered nurses out of direct patient care. We look forward to working with
the hospitals in the implementation of this law,” added Judy Huntington, MN,
RN, Executive Director of WSNA.
This legislation will promote safe patient handling and reduce injuries amongst
health care workers by establishing a Safe Patient Handling Committee (with at least
half of the Committee be direct care providers) and implement a safe patient handling
policy to prevent musculoskeletal disorders among health care workers and injuries
to patients. The law will also mandate hospitals to acquire the much needed
lifting equipment and provide staff training.
Text of the Safe Patient Lifting law that was passed in 2006.
Frequently Asked Questions
Through the hard work of all the nurses in Washington State, WSNA (along with the
other unions and the Hospital Association) were successful in lobbying for the passage
by the State Legislature the most comprehensive patient handling/lifting law in
WSNA will be working with the stakeholders in the coming months on the implementation
of this new law in order to ensure that all both nurses and patients enjoy the full
benefit of the provisions of the bill. Here is a brief summary of what the
law means for you.
What type of training must the hospitals provide?
Hospitals are required to train staff on policies, equipment, and devices at least
How is "safe patient handling" defined?
It means the use of engineering controls, lifting and transfer aids, or assistive
devices, by lift teams or other staff, instead of manual lifting to perform the
acts of lifting, transferring, and repositioning of patients.
Who is included in this law?
All 97 of the hospitals in Washington State, including public district hospitals,
private nor-for-profit and for-profit hospitals, and three state hospitals for the
What does the law require hospitals to do?
By February 1, 2007 – all hospitals must establish a Safe Patient Handling Committee
with at least half of the Committees members be frontline non-managerial employees
who provide direct care to patients. The purpose of the Committee is to design
and recommend the process for the implementing a Safe Patient Handling Program.
By December 1, 2007 – all hospitals must establish a Safe Patient Handling Program.
The program must include:
- Implementing a safe patient handling policy for all hospital units and shifts;
- Conducting a patient handling hazard assessment, which should consider patient-handling
tasks, types of nursing units, patient populations, and patient care areas;
- Develop a process to identify the appropriate use of the safe patient handling policy
based on the patient’s physical and medical condition and the availability of lifting
equipment or lift teams;
- Conduct an annual performance evaluation to determine the effectiveness in reducing
musculoskeletal disorder claims and related lost work days, and to make recommendations
- Consider the feasibility of incorporating patient handling equipment or the physical
space needed to incorporate it when developing architectural plans.
By January 30, 2010 – all hospitals must complete, at a minimum, the acquisition
of their choice of (1) one lift per acute care unit on the same floor unless the
Committee determines that a lift is unnecessary, (2) one lift for every 10 acute
care available inpatient beds, or (3) equipment for use by lift teams.
What happens if nurses don’t follow the procedure for safe patient handling?
Hospitals shall develop procedures for hospital employees to refuse to perform or
be involved in patient handling that the employee believes in good faith will expose
a patient or the employee to an unacceptable risk of injury. Any employee
who in good faith follows the procedure shall not be subject to disciplinary action
by the hospital for refusing to perform or be involved in the patient handling or
What incentives are provided to hospitals to acquire the necessary equipment?
The law provides for a tax credit of up to one thousand dollars for each acute care
available inpatient bed towards the cost of purchasing mechanical lifting devises
and other equipment that are primary used to minimize patient handling by health
Who will enforce this law?
The Department of Health will have oversight of the non-State hospitals implementation
of the law while Department of Social and Health Services will oversee the State
The Department of Revenue will handle the tax credit for the acquisition of equipment.
The Department of Labor & Industries will develop rules to provide a reduced
workers’ compensation premium for hospitals that implement a safe patient handling