Hospital health care workers, especially nursing assistants who do a majority of the lifting in many facilities, may develop musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) injuries such as:
Good work practice includes continually identifying the most hazardous tasks and implementing engineering and work practice controls to help reduce or prevent injuries in those tasks.
Employers must provide employees with proper assist devices and equipment to reduce excessive lifting hazards.
The proper equipment selection depends on the specific needs of the facility, patients, staff, and management.
Devices such as shower chairs can fit over the toilet. Using this device can eliminate multiple transfers, which prevents health care workers from having to lift patients several times. A patient can be moved to the shower chair, toileted, showered, and transferred back to the wheelchair. Shower stalls allow for shower chairs to be pushed in and out on level floor surfaces.
Toilet seat risers are used on toilets to equalize the height of wheelchair and toilet seat, making it a lateral transfer rather than a lift up and back into wheelchair.
There are several types of equipment to help lift patients who cannot support their own weight. You should choose a lift that does not require manual pumping to avoid a possible repetitive motion disorders to workers’ arms or shoulders.
In the next few tabs, we will take a look at some popular lift equipment types.
Overhead track-mounted patient lifters: A track system built into the ceiling that sling lifts attach to. This system provides patient mobility from room to room without manual lifting.
Lateral transfer devices: Devices used to laterally transfer a patient (for example from bed to gurney). They usually involve multiple staff members to help do the lifting. This is often done with the help of a draw sheet, or similar device. Some new lateral transfer systems do not require any lifting by staff, and are totally mechanical. This type of device helps prevent staff back injuries.
Slide Boards. A slide board, also called a sliding board, is used to transfer patients who cannot use their legs. The main purpose of the slide board is to help reduce the need for lifting. It is a placed under patients when transferring them from bed to chair, or chair to car. There are several designs for slide boards, some with moving seats that slide, and others that are nothing more than a slick piece of wood or plastic on which the patient slides.
Transfer Sheets: Transfer sheets, also called slip or roller sheets, help to reduce friction while laterally transferring or repositioning patients in bed. They also help reduce the force workers need to exert to move the patient.
Repositioning Devices: Mechanically pull patients up in bed, which eliminates manual maneuvering by staff.
Height adjustable electric beds: These should have height controls to allow for easy transfers from bed height to wheelchair height. These beds can be kept low to the ground for patient safety and then raised up for interaction with staff. Avoid hand cranked beds, which can lead to wrist/shoulder musculoskeletal disorders such as strain or repetitive motion injuries.
Trapeze lifts: A bar device suspended above the bed which allows patients with upper muscle strength to help reposition themselves. This device is particularly useful with adjustable beds and armless wheelchairs.
Walking belts or gait belts (with handles): A gait belt with handles can be used during ambulation, during a stand pivot transfer, guiding a patient along a transfer board and during seated transfers. They are not designed for lifting patients.
Sitting-standing wheelchairs: Wheelchairs that provide sitting to standing options for patients. They enable patients to stand easily and can be used independently or with the help of a healthcare worker.
Pivot transfer disk devices: Used for standing pivot transfers and seated pivot transfers for patients who have weight bearing capacity and are cooperative. Although it is mainly used in wheelchair transfers, it can be used in any type of situations involving sitting. To ensure maximum safety while performing swivel transfers, helpers should use gait belts.
Descent Control System (DCS): Emergency evacuation or retrieval from older or disabled structures may require using stairs or negotiating rough terrain when moving patients.
These devices allow ambulance technicians or emergency evacuation personnel to safely move a loaded hospital cot or gurney downstairs or any steep decline.
The Device easily attaches to any ambulance cot currently in the pre-hospital care market. When not in use, the DCS simply folds up and out of the way.
A written patient care plan that describes strategies to address specific patient needs, the degree of assistance required, and special treatments, etc., should be developed. Possible strategies include:
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Healthcare workers who lift and reposition patients have the highest injury rate among the CSEA workforce. This video shows how labor and management can work together to implement a safe patient handling (SPH) program.
A SPH program can help reduce employee injuries, reduce mandatory overtime, increase morale, and lower workers' compensation costs. The video will show you how to implement a SPH program at your facility. This video is a real life example of the successful program at the NYS Veterans' Home at Batavia.