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CEO challenge: Even 'Superman' needs a lift
Hospital CEO learns first hand about safe lifting
Harry Geller, MBA, administrator of Othello (WA) Community Hospital, lies down to sleep, a smile on his face as he begins to dream about a sure-fire way to solve patient-handling dilemmas. Moments later, he turns into Superman, flying down the hall and running into a patient room to help staff before they're injured. But on his third feat, Geller faces a "heavy" patient and tumbles to the floor. The hospital can't rely on a Superman to safely move patients.
That dream sequence was just a clever way for the small, rural hospital to explain its commitment to safe patient handling. Even before the CBS reality show, "Undercover Boss," became prime-time fare, hospitals in Washington competed in a CEO Challenge. The Washington Hospitals Workers' Compensation Program, a subsidiary of the Washington State Hospital Association, used the competition to promote injury prevention.
For the past two years, the competition has focused on patient handling and Geller and Othello Hospital have won both times. The $5,000 prize has been used to buy patient- handling equipment.
"The challenge to them was to look at any injury records for employees in their facility, meet with their employee safety committee and talk about where injuries are occurring," says executive director Beverly Simmons. "Is there some potential fix to reduce those injuries? What would that fix be? We would then offer a monetary prize to help them make that fix."
In 2008 and 2009, the hospitals were required to make a video showing the CEO using patient-handling equipment and being transferred on the equipment. The prize, says Simmons, is an incentive to have the CEO be more aware and understand the challenges in safe patient handling."
Finding the money
For Othello, as for most small hospitals, finding money for new patient-handling equipment is in itself a challenge. So the contest could both highlight the hospital's efforts and provide much-needed resources.
The Superman-dream sequence was just a cute way to present the hospital's commitment to preventing back injuries. The 2008 prize paid half the expense of installing a ceiling lift, Geller says.
"Safety is the rule of the day and always will be," he says. "In the short run, [lift equipment] costs money; but in the long run, if you can prevent a single back injury among nursing staff, it pays for itself. We haven't had back injuries for years now with our nurses or nursing aides."
Charge nurse April Williamson, RN, is one of two certified patient handling specialists who help train nurses in use of the equipment. The hospital has an emergency department, 11 med-surg rooms and five labor and delivery rooms.
"When I give [safe patient-handling training] to the nurses, I make one of them take turns being the patient. They're always kind of surprised how easy it went," she says. "It looks like it would be uncomfortable, but then they sit in it, and it's not uncomfortable at all."
Geller also experienced life as a patient. "Most of us really do want to be transported safely," he says, adding, "It speaks volumes to learn first-hand [about the patient experience].
In fact, Geller's experience had some side benefits. "As a patient on the gurney, I certainly noticed that the threshold at the door was too high and created a nice little bump," he says. The hospital altered the thresholds, so that the gurney ride is smoother for patients.