Implementation of a Safe Patient Handling Program in a Multihospital Health System From Inception to Sustainability: Successes Over 8 Years and Ongoing Challenges

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Abstract

Musculoskeletal injuries, especially back injuries, are among the most frequent injuries sustained by direct caregivers who lift, transfer, and reposition patients. These injuries can be debilitating and, for some caregivers, career ending. In the first year following implementation of the safe patient handling program in a multihospital health care system, an 82% reduction in Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) recordable patient handling injuries was realized, a 94% decrease in days away from work, an 85% reduction in restricted duty days, and an 82% reduction in incurred workers’ compensation costs. These reductions have been sustained for an 8-year period since the program’s implementation in 2008. The primary focus of the program’s first year was training and education. Compliance and retraining efforts began in the second year, followed by a gradual transition to the present emphasis on sustainability. This article describes the development and implementation of a safe patient handling program in a multihospital health system and the impact on caregiver injuries over 8 years. Also presented are key strategies that were used to achieve sustainability.

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