Safe Patient Handling
A safer approach to patient handling whereby the manual lifting of patients is eliminated, wherever possible.
The leading cause of injury to nursing and hospital support staff is the result of repeated manual lifting, transferring and repositioning of patients and residence. With incidence rates of occupational injuries requiring days away from work rising, this can be a significant cost to healthcare organizations. Safe patient handling programs have become one of the top initiatives for healthcare institutions, seeking to minimize work-related injuries and reduce injuries due to patient falls. Proper equipment and education on how to use patient lifts can significantly reduce exposure to these risks.
The main focus is on using equipment vs. people to perform lifts, transfers, repositioning and other movements of patients that place a higher level of stress on the caregiver.
Elements of a Successful Safe Patient Handling Program Commitment from Management at All Levelsa
Gaining management supports, as well as assembling a team for a safe patient handling program, are critical to program success. Management can provide visible support by consistently communicating the importance of safe patient handling; assigning roles for various aspects of a safe patient handling program to appropriate managers, supervisors, and other employees; and providing appropriate resources for implementing and sustaining the program over time.
1) A Safe Patient Handling Committee that Involves Frontline Workers
To design and implement a safe patient handling program, as well as to evaluate and sustain the program into the future, the frontline (non-managerial) employees who provide direct care to patients should be well-represented on the safe patient handling committee.
2) Hazard Assessment
Address high-risk units, areas, and patient-handling tasks. Hazard evaluation should consider factors such as types of nursing units, the physical environment of patient care areas, and existing equipment and its utilization. It is important to consider characteristics of the patient population such as level of patient mobility and cognition.
3) Technology & Prevention through Design
Implement methods to control hazards such as lifting, transferring, and repositioning patients. Manual lifting should be minimized in all cases and eliminated when feasible. For example, a “zero-lift“ program or policy minimizes direct patient lifting by using specialized lifting equipment and transfer tools.
Establish safe patient handling policies that are based on patients’ physical and medical conditions and the availability of lifting equipment and lift teams.
Select appropriate lifting equipment in accord with the hazard assessment, and install and maintain lifting devices according to manufacturer recommendations. The best proactive approach is through proper design of the work environment, including incorporating health hazard controls into the design of facilities during construction and remodeling.
4) Education & Training
Provide sufficient education and training so that each worker understands the elements of the safe patient handling program and how to participate. The education and training of healthcare workers should be geared toward the assessment of hazards, selection and use of the appropriate patient lifting equipment and devices, and review of evidence-based practices for safe patient handling. Training should include when and how to report injuries.
Benefits of Safe Patient Handling
Safe patient handling programs reduce the risk of injury for both healthcare workers and patients while improving the quality of patient care. Use of lifting equipment is essential to a successful safe patient handling program and has been shown to reduce exposure to manual lifting injuries by up to 95%.
In addition to reducing healthcare worker injuries and related lost work time, safe patient handling programs have other benefits, including:
- More satisfying work environment and professional status
- Improved nursing recruitment and retention
- Increased patient satisfaction and comfort
- Decreased patient falls and pressure ulcers
- Reduced costs associated with injuries
Benefits for Patients
- Improved quality of care
- Improved patient safety and comfort
- Improved patient satisfaction
- Reduced risk of falls, being dropped, friction burns, dislocated limbs from improper moving
- Reduced skin tears and bruises
- Enhanced rehabilitation efforts
Benefits for Healthcare Workers
- Reduced risk of injury
- Improved job satisfaction
- Injured caregivers are less likely to be re-injured
- Pregnant caregivers can work longer
- Staff can work to an older age
- More energy at the end of the work shift
- Less pain and muscle fatigue on a daily basis
- Improved quality of life outside of work
Benefits for Healthcare Employers
- Reduced number and severity of staff injuries
- Improved patient safety and satisfaction
- Reduced workers’ compensation medical, legal and indemnity costs
- Reduced lost workdays of employees
- Reduced use of sick leave by employees
- Improved recruitment and retention of healthcare workers
- Fewer resources required to replace injured staff
- Increased staff morale
Patient Handling Ergonomics
Occupational safety and health programs have fostered research to identify injury risk factors and safety intervention to prevent injuries during patient handling. Evidence-based research has shown that safe patient handling interventions can significantly reduce overexertion injuries by replacing manual patient handling with safer methods guided by the principles of “Ergonomics.” Ergonomics refers to the design of work tasks to best suit the capabilities of workers.
In the case of patient handling, it involves the use of mechanical equipment and safety procedures to lift and move patients so that health care workers can avoid using manual exertions and thereby reduce their risk of injury. At the same time, patient handling ergonomics seeks to maximize the safety and comfort of patients during handling.
The best ergonomic posture in safe patient handling plays a key role in engaging the workforce efficiently.
The best ergonomic practice has 2 components 1) PATIENT TRANSFER & 2) PATIENT LIFTS.
The work force should know about these two which would give them a fair idea when to use/demand either one of it.
- It is a dynamic effort in which the patient aids in the transfer and is able to bear weight on at least one leg.
- It is an effort by the workforce/workforces where the patient cannot bear weight on at least one leg.
SPH –Decision making factors
- Weight bearing capacity
- Upper body strength
- Co-operation & Cognitive level
- Physical characteristics
- Other special characteristics like presence of tubes, IV, HOF, splints should be considered.
In Growing Health care sectors it’s not possible to avoid manual handling
- At least Polices/ SOP’s should be developed so the principle of Protection Using Safe Handling (PUSH) is prioritized
- PUSH – should be realistic & reflect Actual practice
- A Robust Risk Management process including
- Hazard Identification
- Risk Assessment
- Implementation of Controls
- Performance Monitoring
- Auditing & Review of the management
Factors contributing safe handling
- Management’s commitment
- Employees Participatory level
- Ergonomic approach & Proper work place Design
- System of Investigating incident
- Sufficient Human Resource trained for this Management Program
Consequences of Unsafe Patient Handling
The evidence is in: Micro fractures of the disc occur from the very first patient you lift! Over time, there is a cumulative effect on spinal discs, resulting in degenerative damage. This can occur well before pain or other symptoms are experienced. Symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders include pain that varies according to stage.
- Early stage: pain may disappear after a rest away from work.
- Intermediate stage: body part aches and feels weak soon after starting work and lasts until well after finished work
- Advanced stage: body part aches and feels weak even at rest; sleep is affected; light tasks are difficult on days off
Other signs and symptoms may include tingling or numbness, fatigue, or weakness, redness and swelling, and/or loss of full or normal physical movements.
To promote safe patient handling Apollo Hospitals launched Home Care Request for Patients so that they can be treated safely at home. To avail Apollo home care request book appointment now.
Also for a quick and timely patient check-up Apollo launched Ask Apollo platform for booking appointment online before visiting the hospital. Look for best specialty doctors in India at Apollo Hospitals and book a quick appointment through Ask Apollo to visit doctors at your convenience.
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