What is a Safe Patient Handling Program?

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

SPHM Article - What is a Safe Patient Ha
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A Safe Patient Handling Program is a platform put in place by a healthcare institution to reduce the risk of injury to their employees as well as patients through methods of reducing manual lifting, transfers, and other high injury risk care settings. Safe Patient Handling Programs usually consist of Data Collection and Assessment, Gaining Support from Management, Determining a Goal, Identifying Equipment needs to obtain that goal, development of new Work Practices and Trainings, and an Evaluation.

Let’s take a look at each of these in more depth...

1) Data Collection & Assessment

In order to find solutions for a particular problem, there needs to be a recognition of what that problem is. There’s no better way to show a problematic workflow than with concrete and cold hard statistics. Gathering input and answering questions such as; how much time off is being requested due to circumstances such as back pain? How many on site injuries have taken place over a particular period of time? What departments, floors, shifts have the highest rate of injury? How many worker’s comp claims have been filed due to a preventable lifting related care task? How many patient injuries have occurred from being transferred from one surface to another? What does the facility’s patient population look like in terms of weight and mobility needs? Among many more, are a good start in order to form a base for what will be needed to further a program at a facility. A strong Needs Analysis will help form a strong base for the rest of implementation of the program. Also feel free to inquire with one of our clinical specialists on customized SPHM Programs for your organization by Contacting Us

2) Gaining Support From Management

So you have the statistics and data to show that there is a real problem at hand, now what? It’s important to identify which vehicle will be used to drive the program to the promise land. If there isn’t real backing and support from the IDN or Hospital’s management, the program is likely to be ineffective. You need real enthusiasm being championed in order to make a difference and to obtain the buy in from all staff. Who can drive these efforts? Often we see that programs are started and developed from Occupational Health, Value Analysis, Nursing, Quality, Ergonomists, Infection Control, among others. There are numerous avenues that could be explored but the point is that it should come from “the top down” in a sense and that the organization supports the common goal.

3) Determine a Reasonable Goal for the Program

What is the hopeful outcome of attempting to solve this problem? Choosing real concrete goals in a realistic time frame is key here. It doesn’t hurt to also calculate the financial implication solving the exposed problem will have. Do you really want buy in from higher ups as far as the C-Suite? Show actual metrics on how investing in solutions will ultimately save the institution MONEY. This isn’t the most ethical reasoning in some sense for developing a program, but it sure doesn’t hurt in sparking the conversation and gaining the appropriate attention and resources it deserves. Also inquire around with colleagues about what other institutions may be doing. Never hesitate to seek advice to get the best handle on what to be looking for. Attend SPHM Events, or for Safe Patient Handling guidelines review the Safe Patient Handling & Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards published by the American Nurses Association. In general a “goal” in these sorts of programs is always revolving. It’s not black and white with a clear beginning and end. You will find once started, a good SPHM Program’s needs will never sleep. Institutions have whole departments for continuing and implementing strategies. In the short term though, seek to reduce specific injury related instances tailored around your research from collecting data in these areas.

4) Identify Patient Handling Equipment Needs

Examples of Safe Patient Handling Equipment are; Hoyer Lifts, Ceiling Patient Lifts, Lift Slings, Sit Stand Lift, among other kinds of products. On top of just the different types of equipment, there are also many different vendors of said equipment of which to choose from. If your state or organization doesn’t already have a mandate for Safe Patient Handling Equipment coverage (i.e. The Veterans Administration, 11 different states to date of varying degree), then this is where your needs analysis will come in handy. What percentage coverage does each unit need? What types of slings can be used to assist in our common injury prone transfers? Are ceiling lifts even feasible in particular rooms? Where will the equipment charge? Would it make sense to use single patient use disposable slings as opposed to washable reusable slings? Consult with vendors, colleagues, agencies, specialists in the field to get a feel for what’s out there. Remember that this equipment is a means for your program to accomplish its goal. They are simply instruments used to solve an underlying issue and thus knowing about them from multiple aspects and how they can assist you can only help accomplish your program’s initiatives. It’s highly recommended you do your research! If you’re looking to purchase SPH equipment for your facility and need some direction on different solutions and possibilities, feel free to contact us by clicking here.

5) Establish Policies and Procedures & Providing Training

There is a common trend that seems to happen when SPHM Equipment is purchased at a facility without a program or champion in place to oversee its utilization. A ceiling lift for example will sit in the corner of a room and collect dust, the lift slings are put in an area nobody knows and even if they did they’re not sure how to use it, the floor based patient lifters are stored in a remote closet away from the units they’re most needed, etc. There are so many factors to consider when going from obtaining the equipment, over to actual utilization of said equipment. Make sure policies and training associated with the equipment is practical and well thought out. Making sure the end users are comfortable using the equipment is most of the battle. An organization can invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on equipment but if there’s a disconnect between the purchase and compliance, the investment is worthless. It’s difficult to change the culture in a work environment to challenge “how we’ve always done it” to “this is how we do it now”. Erasing some of the preconceived negative workflow notions about lifting equipment a nurse may have is vital to the conversation. Combat these objections with policy and training. We often hear from staff when performing an In-Service training “it’s easy and quick for you to use the equipment because you use it all the time” and to that the obvious thought is - It can be easy for you as well if you also use it all the time- it’s about making a different process second nature to where the execution of it is seamless. As stated above feel free to inquire with one of our clinical specialists on customized SPHM Programs for your organization. This can include a needs analysis or even an In-service Training on a new piece of equipment.

Evaluate Progress, Rinse and Repeat

As stated above, the “goal” for a Safe Patient Handling Program is always revolving and inherently is a macro idea to begin with when dealing with patient care outcomes. Evaluating how the program is performing and where it can be improved upon is an everyday ever-changing challenge. Rest assured, once you start seeing improvements in workplace safety for both care staff as well as patients, there will be a snowball effect on the amount of support a program will receive from all areas of your organization.

Through On-Site Training, Facility Assessments, Customized Lift Coaching Programs, we hope to assist in your efforts to create a safer work environment for your patients and staff.

We understand that each institution will be different in the ways they approach compliance and application of Safe Patient Handling throughout their organization.

Let’s talk about what those initiatives are, and how we can go about helping you reach your goals. Give us a call at (617) 895 7966 to speak to a representative, or e-mail us at and we will reach out promptly.

SPHM Article - What is a Safe Patient Ha
Download • 858KB

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