Nurses still taught to use body mechanics’

This is what most student nurses still are being taught about lifting: Have the proper body mechanics. Put your arms under the patient’s armpits. Rock on the balls of your feet and lift and propel the patient.

"It’s just as appalling as it sounds," says Audrey Nelson, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of the Patient Safety Research Center at the James A. Haley Veterans Hospital in Tampa, FL, and a member of U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) National Advisory Committee on Ergonomics. "Eighty-five percent of our schools of nursing are teaching the hook-and-toss manual-lifting technique as their primary approach. This technique has been banned in most of Europe and Australia as being unsafe for the nurse and unsafe for the patient."

Schools of nursing will be introduced to a new patient-handling curriculum at the Safe Patient Handling and Movement Conference sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Patient Safety Research Center and the American Nurses Association (ANA). The conference will be held Feb. 28-March 3 in St. Petersburg, FL. The ANA also is mailing information about safe patient handling to every hospital in the country. The mailing is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.

"There needs to be a paradigm shift with respect to nurse educators and what is needed to prevent back injuries," says Butch DeCastro, PhD, MSN/ MPH, RN, senior staff specialist for the ANA in Silver Spring, MD. DeCastro and others want nursing students to learn about the importance of ergonomics to ensure their safety — and that they will expect more from their future employers. "These are [issues] we think new nurses should have on their minds in job interviews," he says.

[For information about the Safe Patient Handling and Movement Conference, go to or call (813) 558-3902.]