A written policy facilitates complete implementation and sustained success of a safe patient handling program. Consistent management leadership can "set the tone" and make safe patient handling a visible priority.
A program is more likely to be successful if nurse managers and frontline staff are involved early in the development of the program.
Safe patient handling policies establish expectations that staff will use the safest techniques to accomplish patient handling tasks, and that administrators will provide equipment and resources to support staff efforts. In addition, proper training on equipment use is necessary, as are accountability and a commitment to the overall culture of safety.
Policies should address the importance of using lift equipment correctly and following proper handling procedures to ensure both patient and worker safety. Safe patient handling policies should be designed as a pledge from administrators and staff to protect patients and workers, and should include clearly articulated goals and expectations.
Once you have assessed the need for a safe patient handling program, it is now time to start planning ways to implement it.
Developing a plan includes brainstorming different options for a program model, determining the selection of necessary equipment, gaining administrative approval (if not received during the assessment step), and creating an implementation plan.
First of all, brainstorm the options of program models based on the data analysis. You should consider various levels of intervention, including the costs for human resources, training, equipment, and potential injury reduction.
You also need to figure out the best method to roll out and maintain the program within the facility, as well as the methodology for safe patient handling. For example, will each caregiver be responsible for their own patients, or will each individual department use its own safe lifting team? What are the benefits and drawbacks of each option?
Next, you will need to develop a policy on safe patient handling based on the model adopted and then make a case for administration.
Once the data is analyzed, an executive summary and report need to be prepared for administrative review. The report should include:
A major step in creating a safe patient handling program is the actual implementation.
This sample checklist highlights many of the important components of a safe patient handling program or policy, including development, management and staff involvement, needs assessments, equipment, education and training, and evaluation.
Establishing and maintaining a successful safe patient handling program will likely require a culture change throughout the hospital. The American Nurses Association (ANA) recommends employers and healthcare workers partner to establish a culture which emphasizes safety as the top priority above competing goals.
According to ANA's standards, a culture of safety includes:
Principles that go beyond equipment and procedures help create a prevention-based culture of safety, and in turn benefit patient safety as well.
Modeling safe patient handling behaviors is key to facilitating change. Along with overall safety coordinators, the dedicated safety champions or “coaches” on each floor or unit to encourage their colleagues to follow safe patient handling policies and procedures. These individuals continually remind and educate their peers about the program and promote a cultural mindset of safety. Nurse managers also can help to support and reinforce the program with staff.
Training and education are critical to the success of any safe patient handling program, especially training on proper patient handling equipment use and ongoing education about the benefits of safe patient handling.
By educating all staff, including physicians, about your safe patient handling program, hospitals can reduce instances of a clinician asking or expecting colleagues to move patients in an unsafe way.
Training can range from onsite demonstrations of equipment use and maintenance to broader safe patient handling education programs and national conferences.
The following are some ideas for a comprehensive approach to safe patient handling education and training:
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