Physical injury

Essential Information Regarding Safe Patient Handling

Most nurses and caregivers are aware that the job comes with a certain degree of risk. Apart from illness and infections, they could also incur a physical injury when handling or assisting patients. For this reason, many nursing homes and employers carry nurse professional liability to cover potential claims by nursing care personnel injured on the job.

But nurses don’t have to accept these risks as inevitable. There are many ways by which they can avoid injuring themselves while carrying out their duties. With thorough knowledge and understanding of these risks and how to prevent them, nurses and caregivers can safeguard their health and well-being and continue to provide a high level of care.

Common injuries that nurses experience

What types of injuries do nurses usually experience on the job? Many suffer from recurring musculoskeletal injuries, often involving the back and shoulders. Apart from muscle strain affecting these areas, nurses also frequently suffer from herniated vertebral discs, which can be debilitating and extremely painful.

These injuries usually result from routine tasks and work-related duties. Nurses may also experience injuries by overexerting themselves or performing tasks that require excessive effort or repetitive motion.

Research conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that as many as 75% of nurses surveyed experienced pain or injury resulting from patient care. The majority of cases involved injuries that occurred within the past year. Among all U.S. professions, the nursing care industry registered the highest rates of musculo­skeletal injury.

What the nursing industry is doing about these risks

Over the past few years, government and healthcare organizations have given increased attention to nurses’ injuries. The primary focus is on musculoskeletal injuries resulting from the handling of patients, particularly when repositioning, lifting, or assisting them.

But the effectiveness of related policies and procedures depends largely on the input of nursing care practitioners. The American Nurses Association (ANA) is one of the few organizations that recognize the importance of nurse and caregiver contributions to developing necessary programs and policies.

Among the measures that ANA has implemented is the institution of standards for safe patient handling. In its “Safe Patient Handling and Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards” program, ANA emphasizes the need for nurse input and feedback in developing safe handling practices.

The most successful programs involve extensive use of engineering, behavioral, and administrative intervention procedures. Even so, the involvement of nurses is a crucial factor in ensuring adherence to the proposed standards.

Tips for ensuring safety when handling patients

Here are some suggestions on how to prevent injury when assisting and caring for patients:

1. Ask for assistance when necessary

Nurses should never have to do the job alone if they need assistance. They should not feel embarrassed or be reprimanded for asking for help when they need it. Utilizing mechanical devices or enlisting the aid of lift teams could help prevent serious injury.

2. Be aware of when and how injuries occur

Injuries don’t always result from a single isolated event. Although most cases stem from overexertion during a heave or lift, repetitive actions can be just as risky, even with relatively light loads. Awareness of when and how injuries occur can prevent painful incidents.

3. Learn the limitations of body mechanics

Proper body mechanics can help prevent many injuries, but it won’t protect against all incidents. In some cases, excess weight or awkward positioning can cause painful injuries even when the nurse adopts proper body mechanics.

4. Place equal importance on personal safety and injury prevention

Many nurses are conditioned to accept pain and injury as part of their role as caregivers. But this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. Avoiding injury with safe practices will enable nurses to provide better care and help ensure their ability to do their jobs for the long term.

5. Report all injuries immediately

Finally, nurses and caregivers should report all injuries to their employers or superiors as soon as possible. States and most nursing organizations have specific rules regarding injury reporting to ensure worker safety and assist them in making compensation claims.

Like many jobs in the medical profession, nursing care comes with its share of risks. Even with industry guidelines and policies intended to protect nurses, factors such as insufficient funding, lapses in monitoring, and poorly-enforced policies could put nurses at risk of injury. But with knowledge, care, and support from employers and facility administrators, nurses can carry out their duties while safeguarding their safety and well-being.

About Midwest Insurance Group

Midwest Insurance Group is a risk retention group developed by Caitlin Morgan Insurance Services in response to the unique needs of the healthcare industry, particularly that of senior living facilities. With rising premium costs and difficulties in obtaining coverage from the traditional professional and general liability insurance market, Midwest Insurance Group represents a viable, long-term insurance alternative for the senior living sector, giving members complete control over costs and claims management. Midwest Insurance Group is reinsured with Lloyd’s of London, and A rated by Demotech.

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