One of the most important aspects of any safe patient handling program is support from hospital management and administration. Employees appreciate knowing their managers care about their well-being. They are also much more likely to follow safe patient handling policies if management stands behind them.
OSHA believes management leadership—combined with employee participation—should be a key component for establishing a safe patient handling program.
OSHA believes there are six essential components that should be utilized as a framework to design a facility’s safety and health program.
These components include:
Before creating a safe patient handling program, the initial step is to engage the support of the facility’s management team related to employee injury reduction, employee safety, ergonomics, and safe patient handling.
Management support is required for several reasons:
Team formation is critical. Having the right members on the team will lead to the success of its efforts. Consideration of the following factors is key to success:
The components of developing and implementing a safe patient-handling program include assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation. Not unlike the nursing process, activities of one step can overlap or occur concurrently, and there can be times that it is necessary to back up a step. Members of the team and the leader of the team need to remain focused yet flexible as the steps are accomplished.
The basic question that an assessment seeks to answer is this: Is there a problem in the facility? The components of the assessment step include a needs assessment and data analysis.
Collection of Injury Data
Worksite analysis refers to a comprehensive evaluation of the department needs, along with existing equipment and how/why it is or is not utilized. Staff input is essential to gain insight into the issues that are interfering with the proper use of equipment.
The analysis includes:
The first step in conducting the assessment is to plan how the review will be conducted. Establish a timeline. Enlist the help of team members and provide the support and guidance needed to complete their portions of the assessment. It is usually better to do as much of the analysis as possible using inside resources, but sometimes an outside provider may be necessary to evaluate complicated situations.
Data analysis includes the following steps:
Several case studies have shown that the initial capital investment in programs and equipment needed to safely handle patients can be recovered in two to five years, particularly when equipment purchases are coupled with training and policies to produce a lasting impact.
Although there can be considerable equipment, training, and infrastructure costs associated with implementing safe patient handling, hospitals with successful programs have found that the long-term benefits far outweigh economic costs.
Those benefits include:
Management support should encompass more than just the workers who are responsible for direct patient care. Departments such as laundry, maintenance, and engineering are vital to supporting safe patient handling. Those departments maintain equipment, supply clean slings, and troubleshoot facility design issues.
It is also a good idea for management to talk to and collaborate with employees' union representatives, where applicable, before launching or expanding a safe patient handling program.
At hospitals that have successfully reduced patient handling injuries, it is common to find administrators who support and promote a culture of safety. While weighing the benefits of investing in safe patient handling policies, procedures, training, and equipment, however, hospital administrators may need to fully understand how these investments impact their bottom line.
We will take a closer look at evaluating the effectiveness of a safe patient handling program in module 4 of this course.
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