Why is Safe Patient Handling Important?

For the Caregiver - Think about this scenario for a moment. If a warehouse worker was asked to move a pallet of goods such as hundreds of heavy boxes from one area of a warehouse to another, would it be reasonable to expect that warehouse worker would use a forklift to assist in the movement of those goods? Yes right, that would be normal and expected. How about if an auto mechanic went to change your tires and used a pallet jack to raise the car? Would that be abnormal? No of course not. In both of those examples most would find it unreasonable or flat out ridiculous to some extent for those workers to perform those tasks manually. So let me ask you, why don’t we have the same expectation for our care staff when manually lifting and transferring patients?

Now you may be asking or saying in your head “Those scenarios aren’t comparable as we’re talking about different amounts of weight?” Technically you would be right, but for maybe not the reason you’re thinking. These weight comparisons aren’t comparable as the weight a nurse manually lifts throughout the day is significantly MORE than those other two scenarios. The American Nurses Association (ANA) projects in a study from 2013 that on average, nurses lift about the equivalent of 1.8 tons in an eight hour shift. You read that correctly, 1.8 TONS. Furthermore according to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, 7 out of 10 nurses report pain resulting from their work, and of 10,000 cases of full time workers, nurses report 237 cases of workplace injuries resulting in days away from work. The second on that list of occupations? Construction workers! Think about that for a moment, nurses more so than construction workers are at risk for being injured on the job. The reason why? Construction workers often use the proper precautionary measures when performing their work tasks. They also use the right EQUIPMENT (helmets, goggles, gloves, etc.) to ensure their safety. So let me ask again why don’t we have the same expectation for our care staff when manually lifting and transferring patients?

For the Patient - The care staff as well as the institutions that employ them is only one half of the equation when examining why Safe Patient Handling is important. The dynamic lends itself to where if the care staff is at risk for an injury on the job, they are also putting the patients they are caring for at risk as well. Most groups and institutions advocating for Safe Patient Handling approach it from a workplace safety view, and somewhat rightfully so, but there’s a whole other side for patient dignity, patient advocacy, patient safety that should always be examined as well. Early mobilization of patients lead to earlier discharges, and those mobilizations are made easier and possible through Safe Patient Handling solutions.   

Most of that information is primed for institutional care. Another discussion can be had for homecare duties performed in the household. It is important that households with in-house care patients be aware of these factors as well. Think about lifting a leg for a loved one for an extended period of time? Or helping assist them from a wheelchair to bed? How are you and your loved one being safe and ensuring there is only one injury in the house? 

For the Healthcare Institution - This is important not only to the care staff themselves, but also the healthcare institutions that employ them. From a safety, clinical, and financial perspective we can clearly see true tangible benefits towards investing time implementing the ideals expressed in Safe Patient Handling into everyday care in most healthcare settings. This leads me to our next topic of discussion…What is a Safe Patient Handling Program? (Click to read)


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