Integrating Safe Patient Handling Into Physical Therapist Education: Reducing the Incidence of Physical Therapist Injury and Improving Patient Outcomes

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Background and Purpose.Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) pose a significant problem for physical therapists (PTs). Safe patient handling (SPH) programs were initiated to guide health care institutions in the safe and effective movement of patients with impaired mobility in an effort to reduce WMSDs in health care workers. The purpose of this position paper is to summarize the rationale for explicitly incorporating information related to SPH in PT education to decrease WMSD injuries, to improve patient outcomes through increased use of SPH equipment as therapeutic tools, and to provide a framework for incorporating SPH content into PT education.Position and Rationale.It is important that educators consider thoroughly incorporating current concepts related to SPH practice in the clinical environment into their courses to ensure student understanding of SPH policies, to enhance their ability to make sound clinical decisions, and to ensure their competence in the use of current SPH technology. SPH programs have been shown not only to reduce WMSDs in health care workers, but also to improve patient outcomes through the strategic use of SPH equipment as a part of therapeutic interventions. It is the responsibility of PT educators to teach students to incorporate SPH practices and to use sound clinical reasoning to avoid personal and patient injury.Discussion.A challenge for educators is that there is very little guidance on how to integrate SPH content into the PT education curriculum. The Normative Model of Physical Therapist Professional Education is used as a framework for a proposed strategy to thread SPH content in PT education.Conclusions.Given the incidence of among PTs, we have a responsibility to promote use of SPH equipment when it will benefit either the patient or the health care worker, or both. Physical therapist educators can influence future attitudes and practice by preparing student PTs to make sound clinical decisions about the use of both manual and mechanicallyassisted patient mobility.

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