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Debunking 5 Common SPHM Myths

Written by: Michael Fragala, PhD, MBA, RN, WCC, CSPHP, AMS

Effective strategies for safe patient handling and mobility, also known as SPHM, are essential to reduce falls and injuries in long-term care facilities nationwide.

The elderly population of the United States is especially vulnerable to falls in nursing facilities, with about half of the 1.6 million residents falling annually. Of these falls, an alarming number result in reoccurrence. Approximately 1 in 3 of those who fall from a nursing facility will experience another fall within a year.
Some common causes of these falls include outdated medical equipment, poor lighting, chronic illness, medication side effects, general inactivity, and environmental hazards. These falls don’t just hurt patients — they also can injure the nurses that care for them regularly.

Sometimes there are misconceptions about SPHM, resulting in doubts about their effectiveness or applicability. In this blog post, we look closely at five myths related to SPHM and debunk them so healthcare providers can implement safe patient handling and mobility interventions confidently.

Myth: Any Mobility Equipment Reduces the Chances of a Fall

Fact: The wrong medical equipment can increase the chances of a patient falling.

All medical equipment selected to help a patient must be thoroughly evaluated by all departments to ensure that it can handle the needs of a patient and the needs of their regular caretakers. Outdated medical equipment or improperly maintained medical equipment can hinder a patient and can even lead to a fall.

Myth: Patients Can’t Prevent Their Own Falls

Fact: Patient education can reduce falls significantly.

Although nurses may be trained to recognize and prevent patient falls, thorough patient involvement can be just as significant and should not be ignored. Patient education is crucial in long-term care facilities.

By understanding their weaknesses, patients can request the help they need to remain comfortable and safe. Education also empowers patients to take an active role in their care, which can reduce the risk of falls and other accidents. Helping them better understand their limitations can help patients set realistic expectations for their care team.

Myth: A Strong, Healthy Nurse or Caretaker Is at No Risk for Injury

Fact: Strong nurses are at more risk of falling while caring for their patients.

Research from OSHA has found that facilities and managers are far more likely to ask nurses perceived as healthy and strong to move immobile patients. Additionally, those who exercise more often or engage in more physical activity are more likely to suffer from back pain.

Myth: Smaller Patients Do Not Need SPHM Techniques

Fact: Manual lifts should be avoided regardless of patient weight.

The average nurse lifts around 1.8 tons per shift. Since many patients also suffer from comorbidities, lifting them manually by oneself can prove to be dangerous. Ergonomically designed medical equipment should be used to move patients, even if it’s just repositioning them in their beds.

Myth: Post-Acute Facilities Cannot Afford Medical Equipment to Help Nurses Lift

Fact: Benefits far outweigh the cost of new lifting equipment. Long-term care facilities cannot afford to lose patients and pay compensation claims to injured nurses.

Gaining a reputation for substandard care and frequent fall incidents can result in decreased patient referrals. Investing in well-designed medical equipment provides direct benefits by dramatically reducing the risks for nurses and indirectly reducing the cost of compensation claims. This results in an overall reduction in the long-term cost that far outweighs that of installation.

SPHM Creates a Safe Environment for all

Implementing SPHM techniques, training your entire staff in better fall prevention strategies, and investing in the correct medical equipment can help keep your facility, patients, and staff in good shape. Your business was meant to help people survive. Make sure to steer clear of falls and additional injuries by continuously monitoring fall risk among your patients.

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