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Importance of Safe Patient Handling And Mobility For Nurses


Over the course of a year, 35,800 nurse workdays are lost due to musculoskeletal injury, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and according to the American Nurses Association’s 2016 Health Risk Appraisal, seven out of 10 nurses report pain resulting from their work.Nurses are the heart of health care, yet they are the most injured profession. We have to protect our caregivers,” says Jeff Gorton, Senior Director of Sales at Sage Products.
 
Safe patient handling and mobility (SPHM) is such a critical issue to the nursing force, that the American Nurses Association has created the Safe Patient Handling and Mobility Interprofessional National Standards to guides nurses on this topic.
 
“Here’s an interesting way to think about the issue: Name any profession where workers are expected to lift 100 pounds on a daily basis. Even construction workers or UPS workers wouldn’t regularly lift that much. Yet, nurses often consider a 100- or 150-pound patient to be an easy load,” says Gorton.
 
What is Safe Patient Handling and Mobility?
SPHM is a series of practices and technology to prevent injury and protect nurse well-being in the workplace. Practices should begin the moment that the patient is picked up in an ambulance or enters the hospital and continue until the patient is released.
 
Small movements matter
Most injuries that nurses sustain on the job are not from one-time events, but from repetitive motions that they perform frequently. “Over time, a movement that seems to be a simple every day task can trigger a serious injury,” says Gorton.
 
For example, the seemingly simple act of boosting or repositioning a patient can put nurses at risk of musculoskeletal disorders such as:

  • Low back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome


How technology can help
There are a variety of technological advances that can help nurses care for patients, while keeping themselves safe from injury, including:

  • Powered cots
  • Slider boards
  • Slings
  • Lifts
  • Air-assisted technology to help position, move, and transfer from the bed to the stretcher, or vice versa.

 
How nurses can assess patient mobility
Assessing a patient’s mobility is crucial for the safety of patients (preventing the patient from falling) as well as protecting the nurse. ANA recommends using the Banner Mobility Assessment Tool (BMAT) to evaluate a patient. 
 
The BMAT walks the patient through a four-step functional task list and identifies the patient’s mobility level. Then it guides the nurse to the recommended SPHM technology needed to safely lift, transfer, and mobilize the patient.
 
Key components of a SPHM program
A SPHM program should include these components:

  • Benchmarks - It’s important to know where your hospital is currently, so you can track improvements.
  • Ownership - Is there a person or group of people who will champion the program and keep others engaged?
  • Tools - What equipment does the hospital already have on hand? What needs to be added?
  • Process - Once the tools and equipment are available, is there a system in place so that nurses know how to access and use them?


Don’t have a SPHM program at your hospital yet? 
Here’s what you can do:

  • Make wise decisions on SPHM on an individual level. Ask colleagues for help, get a patient’s family involved, and take advantage of any tools available to you.
  • Talk to members of your leadership team. In 10 years of working with hospitals on SPHM, Gorton says, “they all want to make improvements and increase the safety of their staff.”
  • Consider joining or starting a committee that supports the SPHM program at your workplace.
  • Visit the ANA SPHM website to access background information on SPHM and links to resources.
  • Join the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Safety Challenge (click "Yes" under "Ready to Join?"). You’ll receive one simple tip on SPHM every day for a month. Invite your entire team to sign up too!   


A SPHM program is crucial to the safety of the staff. As Gorton says, “We've become numb to the statistics. We have to remember that every number has a name and every name has a story.”
 
SPHM is just one piece of a nurse’s health and wellness. Join the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ (HNHN) Grand Challenge for tips, inspiration, and information on improving the health of nurses in five key areas: physical activity, rest, nutrition, quality of life, and safety.

The Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation™ Grand Challenge is made possible in part by the generosity of the American Nurses Foundation and its sponsor Sage Products (a part of Stryker Medical).
 

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