Handle with Care campaign targets ergo

ANA seeks zero-lift laws, education

The American Nurses Association (ANA) in Washington, DC, is making a major push for zero lift.

In its campaign, Handle with Care, the ANA is promoting education on ergonomics and asking hospitals to adopt a zero-lift policy. The nurses’ organization also will target some states to lobby for ergonomics legislation that would be specific to health care. The ANA campaign mirrors the one for needle safety, which led to legislation in numerous states before Congress passed the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act, says Anna Gilmore-Hall, RN, CAE, ANA’s director of nurse advocacy programs.

"Most of the [ergonomic] injuries that occur in health care aren’t the result of an isolated incident," she says. "It’s a cumulative effect over time of repositioning patients, lifting patients, getting patients up from a chair or bed.

"I think until recently people felt it was just part of the job and there weren’t any alternatives," she says. "That’s not true. There are alternatives, and cost-effective things you can do. Now we have some research that indicates that not only is this good for the nurse and good for the patient, it’s good for the facility as well. It’s cost-effective."

The ANA is teaming up with the Patient Safety Center of the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital in Tampa, FL, a leader in research and implementation of safer ergonomics devices. The ANA is a co-sponsor of the center’s Safe Patient Handling and Movement Conference to be held March 2-5 in Orlando.

"It gives a national backing to move the work we’re doing outside the VA," says Pat Quigley, PhD, ARNP, CRRN, deputy director for patient safety at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center.

In fact, the conference moved from the Tampa area to Orlando this year to accommodate a larger attendance. Quigley expects 400 to 500 attendees, compared to about 300 in the past.

The Patient Safety Center also supports state and national policy changes that would promote ergonomics in hospitals, says Quigley, who is immediate past president of the Florida Nurses Association. The state nurses’ association recently announced its support for state legislation establishing a zero-lift policy for patient handling.

"It would be wonderful to have some legislation that would be put into place for hospitals to integrate current practice to reduce lifting and keep nurses at the bedside," she says.

As with needle safety, the involvement of frontline nurses in ergonomics’ efforts will be essential, says Gilmore-Hall. Nurses need input into the selection of equipment and the amount of equipment to be purchased, she says. "They’re involved in establishing the whole program for a hospital because, frankly, that’s the only way it’s going to work," she says.

At the conference, ergonomics’ experts will lay out the data supporting a no-lift policy, and speakers and vendors will present information on new technology. A pre-conference session will address special patient populations, such as bariatric patients and agitated or cognitively impaired patients.

Momentum is growing for ergonomics, says Gilmore-Hall. But she acknowledges that there will be barriers — including resistance from nurses who are accustomed to manual lifting and believe their patients won’t like mechanical lifts.

What’s the ANA’s answer? Education. Nursing schools need to revamp their curricula to incorporate ergonomics, and working nurses need to understand the science behind it. The ANA will even target a part of its message to consumers.

"I’d like to get to the point where a patient would even say to a nurse, Aren’t you going to use the lifting device to get me up?’" says Gilmore-Hall. "It’s going to be a whole culture change."

[Editor’s note: The Safe Patient Handling and Movement Conference will be held in Orlando, March 2-5. It is sponsored by the VISN 8 Patient Safety Center of Inquiry of the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital, the University of South Florida, and the ANA. A conference brochure and registration are available on-line at www.cme.hsc.usf.edu/safepatient/#6. For more information, contact Valerie Kelleher at the Patient Safety Center at (813) 558-3948.]