By James Tran
Vizient Senior Category Manager, Capital
Safe patient handling and movement (SPHM) refers to using ergonomic principles and equipment to minimize the risk of injury to patients and healthcare workers during patient-handling tasks. High-risk tasks include transferring patients from stretcher to surgical table, bed to chair, and repositioning, turning or lifting patients.
The importance of safe patient handling cannot be overstated. Healthcare workers face a significant risk of injury due to the physical demands of their jobs. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), healthcare workers experience more musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) than any other industry. MSDs can result in pain, disability, lost work time and workers' compensation events. The debilitating consequences are unfortunate at any time, but amidst a healthcare labor shortage, the cause and impact have heightened attention.
The benefits of safe patient handling programs are numerous. By reducing the risk of injury to healthcare workers, these programs can improve job satisfaction, decrease turnover and reduce healthcare costs associated with workers' compensation claims. Safe patient handling also can improve patient outcomes by reducing the risk of falls and other adverse events.
There are several critical components of a safe patient-handling program. These include:
Assessment of patient-handling needs: Healthcare facilities should assess the patient-handling needs of their patients and develop a plan to address those needs. This plan should consider the patient's condition, weight, mobility and other factors, including diagnosed medical conditions. Any physician or healthcare provider involved in the patient's care should be engaged in the assessment.
Education and training: Healthcare workers should receive education and training on safe patient-handling techniques and the use of equipment. This education should be ongoing to ensure healthcare workers are current on best practices and how to implement them. Organizations such as OSHA and safe patient-handling conferences are great sources for additional training.
Equipment: Healthcare facilities should use their purchasing power to provide the latest and safest equipment designed for patient handling. This can include patient lifts, slings, transfer boards, lateral air transfer devices, mobility equipment, patient positioning accessories and other devices.
Policies and procedures: Healthcare facilities should have policies and procedures addressing safe patient handling. These policies should be communicated to all staff and regularly reviewed and updated.
Monitoring and evaluation: Healthcare facilities should monitor and evaluate their safe patient-handling program to ensure effectiveness. This can include tracking injury rates, monitoring equipment usage, auditing and inspecting equipment, and collecting feedback from staff.
Safe patient handling is a critical component of healthcare. By implementing a comprehensive safe patient handling program, healthcare facilities can improve the safety and satisfaction of patients and healthcare workers, improve patient outcomes and reduce healthcare costs associated with workplace injuries.
About the author
James Tran is a senior category manager on the medical capital equipment team under the capital equipment solutions domain where he works closely with suppliers in hospital beds, stretchers, safe patient handling equipment, exam room equipment, and other various medical capital equipment categories including the rental of hospital beds and medical equipment. Before working at Vizient, Tran served eight years in the U.S. Navy as a combat medic and aerospace medicine technician, and also worked for Baylor University Medical Center, Health Texas Provider Network, and as a health administrator for a DFW-based medical practice that served the metroplex. He has a Master of Science in health administration and clinical practice management from Texas Tech University.