Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Safe Patient Handling: Taking Care of Our Nurses

Day-to-day patient care can take a lot out of nurses. From bathing to weighing to repositioning patients sometimes multiple times throughout the day, patient transfers can add up. With the average weight of the United States adult population climbing to almost 180 pounds, it’s not hard to believe that nurses lift an upwards of 1.8 tons, or the equivalent of a mid-sized SUV, in an eight hour shift.1 2

As a result of repetitive manual patient lifting at extreme weights, back injuries are the number one reported injury in healthcare. The primary cause of back injury is overexertion from lifting, pushing, or pulling, especially when moving heavy equipment or transferring patients. What’s thought of as routine tasks for nurses, such as transferring a patient from a bed to a chair or repositioning a patient, are actually considered high risk patient handling tasks according to the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA). It’s no wonder overexertion is 4.5 times more commonly cited in nursing injuries than in any other job category.1

In 2010, 2.4 million nurses working in general and psychiatric hospitals reported occupational injuries in the United States, with another 1.4 million long-term care nurses also reporting injuries.3 As many as 40-50% of nurses report back injuries each year, yet alarmingly, up to 50% of nursing occupational injuries go unreported.1 At any given moment, it is said that 17% of nurses worldwide are injured as a result of improper patient handling.1

Injury due to improper patient handling costs $20 billion annually in direct and indirect costs through lost productivity, sick leave, and insurance. Not only is workers compensation costly for healthcare organizations, but occupational injuries can also negatively impact retention and recruitment of nurses and other healthcare staff. In fact, one of the top reasons why nurses leave the profession is to find a job that is less physically demanding.1

It is clear that the only way to retain and recruit nurses and other staff is to protect our nurses from injury.

Safe Patient Handling Starts at the Hospital Bed

The majority of nurse-patient interaction takes place at the bedside, which is why the hospital bed is the ideal starting point for redesigning patient handling tasks and improving nurse safety. As many as 50% of nurses report back injuries as a result of improper patient handling from the bed.1 There are two prominent scenarios that contribute to this startling statistic:
  1. Staff has not been trained in proper bed use, or
  2. The hospital bed may be ill-equipped to assist nurses in patient handling tasks
The first scenario can be addressed internally by facilitating training programs that teach staff to use hospital beds as part of a patient handling program. However, not all hospital beds are created equally and may not include features that assist nurses in patient transfers or repositioning. This can be addressed by introducing new hospital beds built with safe patient handling in mind.

Though capital equipment can be a costly expense, nurse safety is paramount to retaining staff and reducing the costs associated with on-the-job injuries. When recommending a hospital bed to improve safe patient handling, there are a number of considerations to take into account:
  1. Does the hospital bed eliminate unnecessary transfers?
  2. Does the hospital bed accommodate a variety of mattress styles?
  3. Does the hospital bed position patients?
  4. Does the hospital bed facilitate easy patient transfers?
Does the hospital bed eliminate unnecessary transfers?

Without an integrated scale or an add/remove equipment function that allow patients to stay in bed during routine activity, nurses may experience more patient transfers than necessary. Unnecessary transfers can contribute to strain and cause back injuries, especially when lifting more than the recommended 35 lbs.1 It’s important to consider features that reduce the need for manual patient transfers especially when it comes to daily activities.

Does the hospital bed accommodate most mattresses?

Common nurse complaints with hospital mattresses include slipping, height, and mattress movement during a patient lift.5 A slip or mattress movement during patient handling could jar a nurse’s back and result in injury, while a mattress that is too high could also result in back strain. For this reason, it is important to select a hospital bed that can accommodate a wide range of mattresses, so individual units can take into consideration the ergonomic needs of nurses while addressing the individual needs of a patient.

Does the hospital bed position patients?

A hospital bed that positions patients can significantly reduce back injury for nurses. Rather than manually lifting and positioning patients, nurses can take advantage of patient positioning buttons including auto-contour, trendelenburg, chair, and reverse trendelenburg. Look for one-button patient positioning features when considering a hospital bed for a safe patient handling program.

Patient positioning controls can reduce the need for nurse assistance and increase patient independence, and should be used in conjunction with patient lockouts that enable staff to determine suitable positions for patient self-positioning.

Does the hospital bed facilitate easy patient transfers?

Ergonomic siderails and transfer bars can assist patients in safely exiting the hospital bed without the need for nurse assistance. Siderails should not block the patient’s hip, so it’s important to consider a hospital bed with siderails that allow the patient to turn and pivot when exiting bed, which reduces strain for nurses.


The right hospital bed can be used as an integral part of your hospital’s safe patient handling program. Using the proper equipment such as adjustable ergonomic hospital beds can modify patient handling tasks and ensure the safety of nurses.

For more information on safe patient handling, visit the CHG Hospital Beds website at

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CHG Hospital Beds specializes in low hospital beds that are designed to prevent patient falls and related injuries within acute care environments. We are focused on patient and nurse safety and deliver innovative solutions to meet the needs of our customers.


1Enos, L. (2009). Safe Patient Handling: A Summary of the Issue and Solutions: The Evidence Base. Oregon Coalition for HealthCare Ergonomics. Retrieved from
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Body Measurements. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from
3Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2011). Workplace Injuries and Illnesses – 2010. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved from
4Nelson, Lloyd, et al. (2003). Preventing Nursing Back Injuries: Redesigning Patient Handling Tasks. The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses. Retrieved from
5Sewell, J. (1996). Repositioning In Bed: Injury Prevention. Workers’ Compensation Board. Retrieved from

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At 14 December 2012 at 21:16 , Blogger Mae Kristine Rana said...
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At 19 March 2013 at 03:42 , Blogger sam john said...
At any given moment, it is said that 17% of nurses worldwide are injured as a result of improper patient handling.1
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