There are often misconceptions about the best ways for healthcare workers to safely handle patients while avoiding occupational injuries. In fact, manual patient handling is one of the healthcare industry’s major occupational risks, according to The National Institutes of Health.
Becoming aware of common misconceptions around patient handling can help teams reduce the risk of injuries for workers.
High-Risk Behavior Includes More Than Lifting
In addition to the commonly understood risks associated with physically lifting patients, it’s important for healthcare professionals to be aware of risk factors associated with manual patient handling tasks completed on a horizontal plane. These tasks can include lateral transfers from a bed to a stretcher or repositioning a patient in bed.
Training Should be Ongoing
Thorough training and education is a critical step toward a comprehensive safe patient handling program. Effective training should be continuous in nature and include the proper use of equipment as well as reiterate the benefits of handling patients safely. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), this continuing training should include the following:
- Mechanical lift equipment efficiency
- Annual competency sessions
- Mentoring and “safety champions”
- Patient mobility capabilities
Patient Handling Equipment Varies in Quality
Patient handling equipment, such as slippery sheets, sit-to-stand equipment, air transport moving devices, non-powered patient transport devices, and reusable slings, is not always created in equal quality and should be regularly evaluated for ergonomics as well as user acceptance. According to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, healthcare facilities should select these types of items with input from relevant staff members regarding comfort, safety, ease of use and ease of cleaning the equipment.