Benefits of the Safe Patient Care Program
Because of age or incapacity due to illness or injury, patients in healthcare facilities often require assistance with normal daily tasks such as sitting or walking. Assisting patients with these tasks requires significant physical exertion, putting employees at risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
MSDs such as muscle strains, lower back injuries, rotator cuff injuries, and tendinitis are the most common workplace injuries suffered by nurses and other healthcare workers. Risk factors include repetitive and forceful movements associated with patient care, such as lifting, moving, and changing positions.
MSDs account for almost half of all injuries and illnesses reported to nurses and health care support staff, and the rate of MSDs in nursing assistants is almost four times higher than the average for all workers.
The good news is that MSDs, especially back injuries, can be prevented by implementing a safe patient handling program and using mechanical lifting equipment. The use of lifting equipment is essential to a successful safe patient handling program and has been shown to reduce the impact of manual lifting injuries by up to 95 percent.
Benefits of the Safe Patient Care Program
Safe patient handling programs reduce the risk of injury to both healthcare professionals and patients while improving the quality of patient care. Other benefits of safe patient handling programs include the following:
- A more satisfying work environment and professional status
- Improved recruitment and retention of nurses
- Increasing patient satisfaction and comfort
- Fewer patient falls and pressure ulcers
- Reducing costs associated with injuries
Elements of a successful patient safety program
Key elements of a safe lifting program include the following:
- Commitment of management at all levels: Gaining leadership support is critical to the success of the program. Management can provide visible support by consistently communicating the importance of safe patient handling, assigning roles for various aspects of the safe patient handling program to appropriate managers, supervisors, and other staff, and providing appropriate resources to implement and sustain the program over time.
- The Patient Safety Committee, which includes frontline staff: To develop and implement a safe patient handling program, as well as to evaluate and maintain the program in the future, frontline (non-management) employees who provide direct patient care should be well represented on the patient safe handling committee.
- Hazard assessment: Address of high-risk units, areas and tasks for working with patients. A hazard assessment should consider factors such as the types of nursing units, the physical environment of patient care facilities, and existing equipment and its use. Patient characteristics such as patient mobility and cognition are important to consider.
- Technology and prevention through design: Implementing hazard management techniques such as lifting, moving and repositioning patients. Manual lifting should be minimized in all cases and eliminated whenever possible. For example, “zero lift“The program or policy minimizes direct lifting of the patient using specialized lifting equipment and transfer tools.
Establish a safe patient handling policy based on the physical and medical condition of patients and the availability of lifting equipment and lift teams.
Select appropriate lifting equipment according to the hazard assessment and install/maintain lifting equipment according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. The best proactive approach is to properly design the work environment, including incorporating health hazard controls into facility design during construction and renovation.
- Education and training: Provide adequate education and training so that each worker understands the elements of the safe patient handling program and how to participate. Education and training of healthcare professionals should focus on hazard assessment, selection and use of appropriate patient lifting equipment and devices, and review of evidence-based safe patient handling practices. Training should include when and how to report injuries.
- Regular assessment: Regular evaluation of the program in the care environment is critical to the success of the program. Establish evaluation procedures necessary to assess the effectiveness of the patient safety program and ensure its continuous improvement and long-term success. Credible data sources, including the OSHA Log 300 and Forms 301 and 300A, can be used to track and analyze injuries and trends related to current program implementation.
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It is not intended to be exhaustive and any discussion or opinion should not be construed as legal advice. Readers should consult their legal advisor or insurance professional for appropriate advice. © 2022 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.