A Look at Patient Handling-Related Injuries and Their Prevention
Countless healthcare workers in San Jose get hurt at work each year. Common work-related injuries in the medical field include needlestick injuries, slip and fall injuries, and even trauma from acts of violence by agitated patients. But one of the most common injuries among healthcare workers is acute and chronic back pain, which is often the result of patient handling. Hospitals and their employees can be proactive about reducing these work-related injuries.
The first step to maintaining a safe workplace is to raise awareness about the risk of injuries caused by patient handling. Healthcare workers should be informed that even if lifting a patient manually does not cause acute pain, doing this task multiple times does cause cumulative micro-damage to the spinal structures. Over time, this micro-damage can turn into a debilitating back problem. Workplace injuries can be prevented by establishing uniform, hospital-wide policies regarding patient lifting and handling. Every employee should be made aware of these policies and their importance.
The use of mechanical lifting equipment is the safest way to lift and transfer a patient, yet many hospitals lack sufficient lifts to go around. Investing in sufficient mechanical lifts for each floor of the hospital is essential for protecting the health and safety of employees. Cost is often cited as an obstacle to purchasing sufficient numbers of mechanical lifts, but hospital administrators should know that the one-time investment of a lift will pay for itself. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the healthcare industry loses $20 billion each year to the costs related to back injuries in healthcare workers. The use of mechanical lifting equipment is also time-efficient. If a hospital has provided a sufficient number of lifts to go around, it takes less time to use this equipment than it does to find a few available coworkers to lift a patient.
Given what is currently known about back injuries among healthcare workers, manual lifting should already be an outdated practice. Yet, work-related injuries because of manual patient handling continue to plague the industry. When mechanical lifting isn’t an option, healthcare workers should never try to lift and transfer patients by themselves. Team lifting isn’t as safe as mechanical lifting, but it’s certainly preferable to solo lifting.