Many nurses believe that utilizing proper body mechanics while lifting and moving a patient can help prevent injuries from occurring. The truth is that there’s not an exact safe manual for lifting plus, during the rush of a busy day for nurses or other healthcare workers, even if the most suitable body mechanics are used on a specific situation, manually lifting, turning, or transferring patients can often result with injuries to the spine. The effects of an injury might not occur immediately, but the constant overexertion on the structures of the spine can eventually aggravate an injury further and lead to a debilitating condition.
Musculoskeletal injuries, also referred to as ergonomic or overexertion injuries, are common among workers in all healthcare settings, from acute care hospitals to long-term care and ambulatory facilities. Nurses, nurses’ aides, orderlies, and attendants frequently experience these type of injuries at a much higher rate than the general population of workers, even more than those who work in construction, mining, and manufacturing settings.
For nurses, the majority of sprains and strains to the neck, shoulders, and lower back occur during patient handling tasks, such as transferring patients from bed to a chair or commode and repositioning patients in bed. Nonetheless, the load implicated to nurses when lifting and transferring patients is not the only cause for injuries. Tasks that involve bending motions over a patient, such as bathing, performing procedures, or pushing wheelchairs and gurneys, are also known contributors for overexertion injuries in nurses and other healthcare workers. Working on a standing position for extended periods of time can also cause muscle strains and other types of injuries as well. Consequently, even healthcare workers whom don’t engage in regular lifting or moving tasks for patients can eventually experience some form of back or neck pain.
The issue with musculoskeletal injuries occurring on nurses in the first place can be accounted to the increase of aging and overweight patient population, although in many settings, nurses also lack the appropriate tools needed to safely lift and transfer immobile patients. A survey of critical care nurses revealed that less than one half of employers supplied patient lifting equipment. In addition, injury rates were much higher when lifting equipment was not available. While good physical conditioning can be an effective way to help reduce or prevent musculoskeletal injuries, nurses who are capable of lifting and moving patients more easily may receive these type of tasks more frequently than other nurses, unfortunately providing a higher risk of injury due to overexertion.
The elimination of unsafe patient handling has been a long term goal of the American Nurses Association, or ANA. A professional group of experts was recently developed by ANA to thoroughly check the issue of safe patient handling and mobility among healthcare workplaces. A set of national overarching standards was developed as a result of the evaluation in order to determine what was required to implement a safe patient handling and mobility program in all healthcare settings, Safe Patient Handling and Mobility.
Adam Sachs of the American Nurses Association stated, “We can’t afford to lose nurses to preventable injuries at a time wen more people are able to access healthcare services.” One of the core principles outlined in the standards document is investment in safe patient handling technology as well as locating in conveniently, and making sure the staff is well trained on how to use it. “Safe patient handling technology isn’t important just of keeping staff healthier,” said Sachs, “It also preserves the dignity of patients. It’s awkward and embarrassing when it takes a dozen people to move a morbidly obese patient.”
Nurses are a valuable element in healthcare work settings and just as important as their jobs are towards providing the best care for patients, providing the best resources and equipment to prevent musculoskeletal injuries on healthcare workers is also equally as important. With less nurses suffering from these type of injuries, better and more efficient medical care can be offered for your loved ones in need.
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Nurses are a valuable element in healthcare work settings and just as important as their jobs are towards providing the best care for patients, providing the best resources and equipment to prevent musculoskeletal injuries on healthcare workers is also equally as important. With less nurses experiencing these type of injuries, better and more efficient medical care can be offered for individuals in need. For more information, please feel free to ask Dr. Jimenez or contact us at (915) 850-0900.
By Dr. Alex Jimenez
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Injury, Trauma & Spinal Rehabilitation Specialist