Safe patient handling

Safe patient handling programs reduce injury and keep you on the job.

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Rates of muscu­loskeletal injuries in health care occupa­tions are among the highest of all U.S. indus­tries, with hospital workers experi­encing injury rates twice or three times the national average. The single-greatest risk factor for overex­er­tion injuries is the manual lifting, moving and reposi­tioning of patients, clients and residents.

WSNA supports statewide policies to imple­ment safe handling practices and provides resources for nurses.

Legislation and policy

In 2010, Washington state passed Safe Patient Handling legis­la­tion that holds hospi­tals account­able for oversight commit­tees, equip­ment, training and proce­dures to ensure safe patient handling.

WSNA published guide­lines for safe patient handling and our Safe Patient Handling Compli­ance Check­list in 2010, yet results of the WSNA 2017 Nurses Survey revealed over half of 2,000 respon­dents stated they had suffered an injury related to lifting a patient and that safe patient handling policies are not consis­tently imple­mented in hospital settings.

Safe patient handling and mobility is critical to quality of care and all person safety. Research shows that compre­hen­sive safe patient handling programs work to reduce injury.

Safe patient handling and mobility programs reduce injury

Researchers performed a system­atic liter­a­ture review of published Safe Patient Handling and Mobility (SPHM) program evalu­a­tions. Results showed that safe patient handling and mobiliza­tion programs signif­i­cantly reduce patient care worker injuries and that benefi­cial effects of these programs persisted and improved over time.

Teeple, E. et al. (2018). Outcomes of Safe Patient Handling and Mobiliza­tion Programs: A Meta-Analysis.

A successful SPHM program requires a culture of safety, appropriate equipment and education

To success­fully sustain a Safe Patient Handling and Mobility program, three key elements must be included: a culture of safety including admin­is­tra­tive controls, engineering controls including appro­priate equip­ment, and behav­ioral controls such as educa­tion and unit peer coaches.

Totzkay, D. (2018). Multi­fac­to­rial Strate­gies for Sustaining Safe Patient Handling and Mobility.

American Nurses Associ­a­tion. Handle with Care is ANA’s safe patient handling and mobility program.

American Nurse Today. (2014). Safe Patient Handling and Mobility. This special report provides a helpful resource to caregivers as they continue to practice safe patient handling and mobility (SPHM) — or to embark on their SPHM journey if they’re not already on it. National experts share their perspec­tives and best practices to align people, processes, and technology to set the course for action.

DeCastro, B. (April 2019). Guide­lines for a Safe Practice Environ­ment: Safe Patient Handling to reduce injuries and improve patient care. Guidance that supports a culture of safety for nurses and their patients by promoting safe patient handling concepts, injury preven­tion, and the role of the nurse to recog­nize charac­ter­is­tics of the work environ­ment and job tasks that put the nurse and patient at risk.

Facility Guide­lines Insti­tute. (2019). Patient Handling and Mobility Assess­ments. This white paper provides infor­ma­tion about the relation­ship of the physical environ­ment and safe patient handling techniques.

Occupa­tional Safety and Health Admin­is­tra­tion. (n.d.). Safe Patient Handling. OSHA statis­tics and resources for safe patient handling.

WSNA. (April 2019). Palm card for safe lift decisions. Safe lift guidance and strate­gies to protect workers and patients.

WSNA. (April 2019). Keeping nurses healthy: 18 questions. A list of safety questions to learn more about your work environment.

WSNA. (May 2018). Ten health and safety questions for nurses. This palm card contains questions for nurses, including whether your facility has a ​“no manual lift” policy.

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