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This award-winning blog supplements the articles in Hospital Infection Control & Prevention.

He is Heavy and He's not my Brother: Nursing Patient-Handling Injuries on Rise

Injury prevention measures that reduce job risks to nurses and nurse assistants are “urgently needed” as part of a safety culture that includes resources such as patient-lifting equipment, the Occupational Health Safety Network (OHSN) reports.

It is estimated that more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. As they become patients, nurses face some literal heavy lifting – too often without the benefit of safe patient handling equipment. Of hospitals submitting data on both injuries and patient handling equipment, 82% reported injuries occurred when lifting devices were not used, the OHSN found. The OHSN is a Web-based portal that collects data about injuries among healthcare personnel at U.S. health care facilities to help target prevention efforts and measure their impact.

Patient handling can lead to musculoskeletal injuries and disorders, which are increasing among health care workers, the OHSN noted. Nursing staff are routinely exposed to several risk factors, including:

• caring for overweight/obese and acutely ill patients;

• high patient-to-nurse ratios;

• long shifts;

• efforts to mobilize patients almost immediately after medical interventions.

The OHSN collected data on OSHA-reportable injuries at 112 hospitals in 19 states from January 1, 2012–September 30, 2014. The report included 4,674 injuries caused by patient handling; 3,972 that resulted from slips, trips, and falls; and 2,034 due to workplace violence — primarily physical assaults by patients.

For more on this story see the June 2015 issue of Hospital Employee Health.