Have you ever heard the expression, “Oh my aching back?” You have probably said this yourself or had a colleague tell you about their back, neck or shoulder pain. Nurses have extremely high claim rates for back injuries and upwards of 50% of nurses have thought about leaving their job due to this.
Back injuries are the number one cause of absenteeism and sick days.
Nurses have been trained in proper body mechanics to bend their knees and keep their back straight. However, scientists have discovered that the lifting technique that we have learned in nursing school is all wrong and is actually the cause of injuries. Using the proper body mechanic technique alone puts more strain and stress on the back.
William Marras, the director of the Spine Research Institute at the Ohio State University, has studied the relationship between lifting and turning people and the stress it puts on nurses’ backs. He has proven that the ONLY safe way to lift patients is to use an equipment. He says that even having a team to lift can cause injury to the musculoskeletal system.
Prevention of injuries is the key. The VA Hospitals have spent 200 million dollars to implement a program to prevent injuries and it is working. Their nursing injuries have decreased by 40%. They use lifting devices including ceiling lifts and floating mattresses. These are much safer for both nurses and patients.
The American Nurses Association has even published a fact sheet on preventing injuries.
So what are nurses to do?
- Speak up.
Nurses need to feel comfortable in giving their input to their healthcare organization. Give the facts on how lifting equipment is the way to go to prevent injuries. Protecting the health and well-being of the nursing staff will save money as it will decrease sick days, lower workers’ compensation claims and reduce absenteeism.Hospitals are concerned about revenue. Prevention of injuries will preserve revenue. Spending money on equipment will pay off many times over. Show the statistics to the hospital administration on why equipment is important to have and to use.
- Get trained.
Training in the usage of equipment is mandatory. Knowing how to use the lift and transfer devices will avoid injury to the patient and the nurse. Having a designated injury prevention director for your hospital will encourage the use of equipment.
- Let patients know.
It is also important to give the patient a step-by-step information of what you are doing to lift or turn them, as this will alleviate any anxiety and will put the patient and nurse at ease.
- Wear good shoes.
It pays to invest in well constructed and good fitting shoes that promote good posture and stability especially on hospital floors.
Evaluating the patients’ abilities in transfers and ambulation, weight bearing and strength will give much needed information on how to lift and transfer. This evaluation can be a part of the admission criteria and will prevent accidents.
Now that you have the facts, the hope is that hospitals and other healthcare organizations will listen to nurses on preventing injuries. So as nurses, we need to speak up! We need to practice what we preach to our patients. Take care of yourself – you are invaluable!
Written By: Joyce Hyam
Now here’s what I want YOU to do.
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