Because of age or incapacitation due to illness or injury, patients in health care settings often need help performing normal daily tasks like sitting up or walking. Helping patients with these tasks requires significant physical demands, putting employees in danger 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 health care workers. Risk factors include repeated and forceful movements associated with patient care like lifting, transferring and repositioning.
All together, MSDs account for almost half of the injuries and illnesses reported for nurses and nursing support staff, and rates of MSDs for nursing assistants are 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 lift equipment. The use of lifting equipment is essential for a successful safe patient handling program and has been shown to reduce exposure to manual lifting injuries by up to 95 percent.
Benefits of a Safe Patient Handling Program
Safe patient handling programs reduce the risk of injury for both health care workers and patients while improving the quality of patient care. Other benefits of safe patient handling programs include the following:
- More satisfying work environment and professional status
- Improved nursing recruitment and retention
- Increased patient satisfaction and comfort
- Fewer patient falls and pressure ulcers
- Reduced costs associated with injuries