One of the reasons we created our product was because of the staggering amount of back injuries that occur in nursing. All of the patient care videos I was showing to my students modeled poor body mechanics. Working in nursing for over 20 years, I have known many excellent caregivers who left the profession related to back injuries and other musculoskeletal complications the occurred as a direct result of patient handling. Over a hundred years ago, this advice appeared in an early nursing textbook: “It is very good for strength to know that someone needs you to be strong.” (Committee of the Connecticut Training-School for Nurses, 1906, preface verso).
Back Pain and Body Mechanics “Safe Patient Handling and Movement: A Practical Guide for Nurses and Other Health Care Providers” was written by Audrey L Nelson and published in 2005. This very comprehensive guide to safe patient handling and movement discussed back injuries and prevention strategies. In this document, Nelson backs up her claims with research. “Although it is widely accepted that classes in body mechanics and lifting techniques help to prevent job-related injuries, research in the past 35 years reveals that these efforts by themselves have consistently failed to reduce job-related injuries in healthcare as well as in other occupations”
We know that proper body mechanics education is not enough. But if you continually practice proper body mechanics, will that keep you safe? Recent research suggests that it won’t.
Safe Patient Handling? This week on NPR, “All Things Considered” took on this very topic and reported research that “Even ‘Proper’ Technique Exposes Nurses Spines to Dangerous Forces”. This study concluded that the amount of pressure put on the back and spine while lifting patients using proper body mechanics was still causing damage suggesting that the only safe way to handle patients is really not to manually handle them at all.
Implementing safe handling interventions, such as patient lifts in every patient room, isn’t an easy solution. Facilities are bound by cost and space restraints complicate wide spread intervention. The cost of employee injuries, however, can outweigh the cost of purchasing mechanical lifts. The space and facility structure restraints pose a completely separate problem that involves more creative solutions, as do home care settings which all offer their own unique variables and risks
How Do We Stay Safe?
Back Exercises Most of us become nurses because we have a desire to help people. Nurses are notoriously overworked and underpaid. Knowing that we are putting our own personal safety and health at risk to help others is distressing.
Injuries can happen even to the most conscientious nurse using the best body mechanics possible. Keeping ourselves healthy and strong is only one small step to help keep us safe. Staying active, maintaining a healthy weight, working on core and back strengthening, and living as healthy a lifestyle as possible can help, but they don’t eliminate the risk. OTS offers a sincere thanks to all of the health care providers out there for giving so much of yourselves and putting your livelihood at risk for the well-being of others. Be well.