3 Tips for Safer Patient Handling

Take time, educate patients, and use assistive technology to curb injuries, says a nurse honored for reducing workplace injuries.

In a culture of drive-thru restaurants and text messages, it can be easy to forget that faster is not always better. But that’s the message Roxanne Hupp, RN, occupational health coordinator at Mercy Regional Medical Center in Durango, CO, is trying to get across regarding safe patient handling.

“In my mind, if patients feel comfortable and safe and feel the staff is doing their best to take care of them, then time is less of an issue,” she says.

In May, Hupp was recognized as a Nightingale Luminary by the Colorado Nurses Foundation for her work in reducing workplace injuries.


Patient Safety Programs Pay Off for Healthcare Workers


The 83-bed hospital has seen a downward trend in the number and severity of patient handling injuries. In 2012, there were 10 patient handling injuries—three of which were serious and resulted in a large number of lost, transferred, or restricted work days, says Hupp.

In 2013, the number of patient handling injuries dropped to six, with two that were considered serious. In 2014, there were six patient handling injuries, but none were considered serious.

Hupp has tackled patient-handling injuries in a number of ways, including equipment, education, and culture change. Here are some of her insights for handling patients safely:

Lift Equipment is Your Friend

In 2012, Hupp used a $45,000 grant from Catholic Health Initiatives to help purchase new lift equipment, including lateral transfer air mattress devices and bariatric-friendly lifts and commodes.

Mercy’s ICU is a good example of how familiarity with and access to equipment can improve injury rates. Because of room size, all bariatric patients stay in the ICU. Bariatric equipment is housed on the unit and all staff members have been trained on how to use it.

“The ICU, despite the fact that it has our sickest and largest patients, has the lowest injury rate because they have good adjuncts, they know how to use them, and they’re careful to do so,” Hupp says.

Focus on Safety, Not Speed

Trying to be fast can compromise safety. Nurses first should think about the safest way to transfer patients or assist them up from the floor, and whether personnel or equipment may be available to assist with the move.

Safe patient handling does not take an extraordinary length of time, says Hupp. “In one of our annual trainings, I got down on the floor and people got the lift device, and the longest it ever took was four and a half minutes,” she says.

“I said, ‘How long is it going to take you to find six people to get that patient back to bed as opposed to getting one person and the lift?’ I think that was the big eye-opener.”

Involve Patients and Families

During the initial admission assessment, patients should be assessed for fall risk, and both patients and families should be instructed on the best way for patients to get out of bed safely.

“We have lots of good CNA and RN cooperation to assure that the patients are rounded on frequently and reminded not to get up by themselves,” she says, “and every time a new lift device or transfer adjunct is used, the patients and family are instructed on what’s going on.”

This article is a repost from Jennifer Thew, RN who is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders Media.  Click here for her original post.