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The Role of Ergonomics in Safe Patient Handling Programs

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

No one wants to dread going to work. But for many long term care providers over the past two years, places of work have come with many health hazards for the workers themselves, including exposure to COVID-19, a lack of gear, outdated materials and methodologies, and more.

Long term care managers and leaders want to ensure that their environments provide safe and secure surroundings for both patients and caretakers alike. That’s why experts have looked to ergonomics to help them better understand safe patient handling and create a safer environment for long term care patients.

Creating a safer environment helps long term care facilities prevent accidents, control losses and improve satisfaction levels for healthcare providers and their patients. With updated tools, a better understanding of how procedures protect both patients and providers, and continuous asset management, long term care organizations can make their places of work and rehabilitation a positive environment.

Why Ergonomics Is Important For Safe Patient Handling

Ergonomics studies how people interact with their environment and how to optimize that interaction to create a safe and efficient place of work. In the healthcare industry, ergonomics applies to safe patient handling to reduce the risk of injuries to both patients and staff.  It can include everything from the design of bed frames and wheelchairs to the development of safe lifting techniques.

Considering the physiology of patients and providers, ergonomics can help create an ideal place for caretakers and patients. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the number of injuries in the healthcare industry is one of the highest in the nation, at twice the national average for injuries in a particular sector. The most-cited cause for these injuries is the repositioning of patients.

How Ergonomic Principles Can Help Design Safe Patient Handling Equipment

Ergonomic principles are essential in the design of safe patient handling equipment. This application reduces the risk of injury to all involved by minimizing the lifting, pulling, and manual effort required to move patients with mobility issues.

Many sectors of long term care deal with patients who cannot, for whatever reason, get around. Some of these reasons include:

  • Obesity
  • Old age
  • Patients who need physical therapy
  • Chronic pain
  • Paralysis

The kind of care required to help these patients relies on environments that safeguard against accidents. Every patient will need a specialized approach to helping them around their surroundings.

Similarly, long term care providers also need a specialized approach to help them transport patients as needed. Some long term care providers may need additional training for transporting heavier patients, while others might require updated equipment that meets their needs.

The Benefits of Incorporating Ergonomics into Safe Patient Handling Programs

The healthcare industry as a whole currently suffers from a high turnover rate — especially regarding nurses and other caregivers.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 20 percent of nurses leave the profession because of occupational injuries or the risks they face when handling patients. Long term care providers can prevent these injuries and mitigate that risk with a careful application of ergonomics.

Granting providers an array of options when it comes to equipment and training designed with ergonomics in mind can make staff feel safe and protected. It also helps to prioritize the health of the patient who needs care and a stable environment to regain health. With fewer injuries, staff will see their profession as less risky and more inclined to stay.

Fewer injuries also mean more staff will be available to care for patients, employers will pay less in litigation and disability compensation, and more funds can be directed towards the long term care organization’s mission.

Incorporating Ergonomics into Your Own Safe Patient Handling Program

Your patients and staff need groundwork for safe patient handling to avoid staff injuries and patient injuries.

Here are a two guidelines to keep in mind:

1. Select the appropriate lifting device for each task.

2. Train all caregivers in the use of lifting devices and proper body mechanics. It is not enough to simply make the devices available — caregivers must also be properly trained.

When it comes to safe patient handling, Joerns shows its commitment to providing the best possible care by incorporating ergonomic principles into the design of all the equipment and devices used by providers. This approach ensures that products are long-lasting, efficient, comfortable, and easy to use.

All these factors play a key role in ensuring a positive provider experience when dealing with patients. In addition, they ensure that patients are handled with great care while also reducing potential injury risks. Contact Joerns when you’re ready to implement a safe patient handling program at your facility.

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