Obesity Epidemic Means Greater Risk Of Injury For Nurses


By Jean Enersen

As Baby Boomers get older and the American population gets heavier, nurses can face a higher risk for injury when moving patients. New equipment and training is keeping nurses and patients safe.

Nursing student Taylor Bezdicek and her classmates are changing the way care is delivered.

With the click of a button they are making themselves and patients safer. It's all part of a new effort to re-think safe patient handling and mobility.

"We started thinking about ways in which we could stop teaching students about manually transferring patients, just lifting them using body mechanics. It's been mounting for 30 years that there is no safe manual transfer," said Dr. Mary Rowan, clinical professor with the University of Minnesota School of Nursing.

Dr. Rowan says manual transfers, where nurses use their own body strength, results in 35,000 nurses being injured each year.

Patients are coming in sicker and heavier, making nursing even more dangerous.

"It was time to shift," said Dr. Rowan.

Nursing students are being taught how to use mechanical equipment.

"Since then we have seen a huge reduction in our patient handling injuries and just over all staff safety has been huge," said Eric Swanson, injury prevention specialist.

Ceiling lifts make it easy to lift a patient onto a bed injury-free to nurses and the patient.

Transferring patients from bed to bed used to take four people.

But air mattress like lift reduces a patient's weight by 90 percent and only takes two nurses to lift.

These are just some of the many tools nursing students are mastering in hopes staying on the job longer.

"Now that I've seen the variety of patients that you're taking care of, I definitely think it's great that we have practice with the safe handling equipment," said Bezdicek.

It makes sense because shoulder and lower back problems are the most often reported injuries by healthcare workers.

It also makes sense from a cost perspective, since patient falls and pressure sores result in increased hospital stays and higher rates of re-admissions.


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