Hired hands can boost no-lift efforts

Contracted lift teams offer new option

As hospitals ramp up their efforts to provide safe patient handling, there's also an increase in the services available to help them. In fact, even beyond training and traditional consulting, hospitals now can hire contracted lift teams.

Atlas Lift Tech, based in San Francisco, provides customized safe patient handling services to hospitals around the country — including contracted lift teams.

It's not much different from contracting other hospital services, such as housekeeping, dietary or transport, says Eric Race, PEMT, president and founder of Atlas Lift Tech. The company carries liability, workers' compensation and errors and omission insurance, he says.

"We will provide a successful and sustainable program ... [that is] cheaper, easier and faster with less risk to the hospital," he says.

Despite its name, Atlas Lift Tech isn't based on hiring burly guys who use brute force in manual lifting. Hospitals must buy appropriate equipment, and the lift team members are required to use equipment. In fact, Atlas Lift Tech helps hospitals select vendors and provides clinicians to train hospital workers in the use of equipment.

"A physical therapist will educate a physical therapist, and an RN will educate an RN," says Race. "This allows for a core understanding of what safe patient handling is in their particular environment."

The lift teams generally function as safe patient handling peer leaders, helping with lifts as well as training hospital employees on lifting, says Race. The lift teams perform the most challenging lifts, but they don't do all lifts in the hospital, he says.

A software program allows the staff to coordinate with lift team members and request lifts, based on a nursing assessment, he says. "The nurses are ultimately overseeing the lift teams," he says. "This is still the hospital's program. We're just providing them with the resources that create essentially a turn-key solution [to safe patient handling]."

As hospitals evaluate the success of their safe patient handling efforts, they often seek outside resources. Marin General Hospital in Greenbrae, CA, is trying to find a way to increase the use of the hospital's lift equipment.

"One of the barriers that comes up repeatedly is time. There's a sense that it takes longer to use mechanical equipment than it does to perform a lift manually," says Julie Lavezzo, CHEM, director of Safety, Security and Transportation.

Marin General is looking for help to improve staff training in safe patient handling and to make employees more comfortable with the equipment, she says. "We want our staff to know how to safely and effectively manage patient mobilization activities," she says.

The cost of lift teams — and consulting and training services — varies based on the particular needs of a hospital, says Race. But the cost of patient handling injuries is well-known in the industry. "We're always going to be less than their [workers' compensation] loss history," he says.