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Moving patients a common cause of injury in health care

Today’s nurses, certified nursing assistants and other health care workers face unique work-related health hazards. While some of them arise due to regularly working around ailing patients, others are more environmental in nature. Healthcare Business & Technology reports that the leading work-related threat affecting today’s nurses is moving or lifting heavy patients, which can cause serious back and musculoskeletal injuries when repeated over time.

In fact, back and musculoskeletal injuries have become so prevalent among this group of workers that nurses, alone, suffer more than 35,000 such injuries every year that are bad enough to keep them home from work. This figure highlights a troubling industry trend. It also highlights the fact that today’s health care employers need to do far more to protect their staff members from lifting-related injuries.

How injuries occur

Generally, health care workers know they can do certain things when performing heavy lifting to prevent injuries, such as getting as close to the object they are lifting as they possibly can. In many cases, however, health care workers have to lift patients up and out of bed, and they can typically only get so close to them when doing so.

Similarly, many health care employers encourage their staff members to engage in “team lifting,” which can help distribute patient weight among more than just one person. However, finding enough workers who can come together to lift a patient is not always feasible.

Potential remedies

As more and more nurses and other health care workers suffer serious lifting-related injuries, some hospitals, doctor’s offices and other health care employers are adopting new strategies to help combat the problem. Arguably the best thing these employers can do to protect their teams is to purchase lift-assistance equipment, which reduces the strain on workers, but this equipment can prove extremely expensive and therefore out of reach for some employers.

When health care workers suffer injuries that prevent them from working, a facility's quality of care can suffer as a result. Thus, it is in the best interests of everyone involved to enhance safety protocols relating to lifting.

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