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Evidence-Based Practices for Safe Patient Handling and Mobility

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

Facilities for long-term patients, such as the chronically ill and the elderly, require intense commitment from all members of the team to maintain the health of each individual. Unfortunately, those who have to assist patients with mobility limitations can suffer the consequences of outdated safe patient handling and mobility practices. The industry as a whole has shifted to practices based on experience and evidence.

To preserve the safety of your team and the health of your patients, implement evidence-based safe patient handling and mobility practices. Below are some updated practices to consider for your facility.

5 Evidence-Based Safe Patient Handling & Mobility Practices

Patient Handling Equipment and Devices

The advancement of patient-handling equipment and devices has revolutionized patient care and safety. Before these advancements, long-term care providers had only been able to rely on dangerous manual patient handling techniques

These practices lead to increased injury and poor health outcomes due to the fatigue imposed on frontline workers from manually moving patients devices that can shift patients without harming them are essential to safe patient handling and mobility programs.

Because these assets deal with patient safety, providers must remain vigilant to ensure that assets related to safe patient handling — such as wheelchairs, stretchers, and ramps — are regularly monitored and assessed. An effective asset management program makes it easier for providers to identify any necessary maintenance or replacements of these items for them to meet stringent safety protocols before and after use.

As with many items in the medical industry, lifting devices often change for the better over time. Some of these devices incorporate ergonomic best practices, spine health, limb health, and neck health into how they operate. Proper maintenance of safe patient handling and mobility devices includes keeping up with these new developments so patients can take advantage of the opportunities for better care.

Patient Care Ergonomic Assessment Protocols

The situation with a patient changes from minute to minute. Conditions such as diabetes, pharmaceutical side effects, infections, or muscular dystrophy can impede a patient’s ability to move regularly. Safe Patient Handling and Mobility or SPHM protocols include assessments of the patient’s room and equipment regularly to determine if anything changed that needed to be addressed.

Ergonomics are an increasingly important factor in patient care, especially in long-term care facilities. Ergonomic assessment protocols assist providers with identifying and reducing physical stressors that can otherwise cause unnecessary strain for staff and patients.

To meet the caregiver needs of our aging population, improving patient ergonomics on a growing scale is essential. Through proper ergonomic assessments and adjustments, both provider comfort and the overall quality of patient care are improved.

No-Lift Policies

A no-lift policy is an important evidence-based practice for long-term care facilities. Although it can often be misunderstood as a rule against moving patients, it actually means that the facility has adequate resources and equipment to do the job safely.

The goal of a no-lift policy is to ensure that providers always have access to the right tools and materials needed for patient movement and transport. This helps ensure that all movements are done with minimal risk and per best practices.

Proper Training for Patient Handling Equipment and Devices

Proper training is essential to ensuring the safe and efficient use of patient-handling equipment and devices. Without proper training, the risk of improper usage leading to serious harm or injury is greatly increased. All providers responsible for moving patients must receive adequate instruction on the correct use of these devices.

By investing in effective training, healthcare organizations can ensure an efficient, caring environment for patients and providers. Always assess how internal team members lift patients, what materials are used, and what equipment they have. Interview providers and patients to determine what went wrong in every fall that has happened over the past year.

Patient Lift Teams

A patient lift team consists of two or more people who work together to lift a patient safely. Studies have found that patient lift teams reduce the number of injuries in a facility. These staff members are chosen based on their history of injuries and current ability and strength. They are then specially trained to handle high-risk patients. Those patients are determined to be high-risk through an assessment conducted by your staff.

Implementing Safe Practices for Better Patient Outcomes

Falls should never be a common occurrence in your facility. Joerns Healthcare helps facilities that need up-to-date and easy-to-use techniques and equipment to manage their practices and maintenance. With Joerns’ support, healthcare facilities across the industry can improve safe patient handling and mobility.

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