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My Experience: Hospitals and Safe Patient Handling & Mobility
By Kent Wilson, CIE, CSPHP

As I work with various hospitals across the country, facility administrators often ask me, “Why don’t the caregivers use the equipment provided to move their patients?” My response is simple, “Why doesn’t your facility require staff to use the equipment?”

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You see, caregivers are often rewarded for doing things quickly, even though it may not be safe for both themselves and the patient. They’re often asked to choose between quickness and safety. These choices happen on a regular basis, even in hospitals that claim to promote a safety culture. In a true safety culture, caregivers should never have to choose between safety and something else.

Reward outcomes should always flow towards safety for both the caregiver and the patient. Hospitals often tell me that their number one priority is patient safety. Of course it is, but it’s impossible to provide safety for your patients if you cannot provide and insist on safety for the caregiver. If the caregiver is at risk, then so is the patient.

Safe Patient Handling & Mobility (SPHM) policies must be clear, concise and consistent. Both managers and caregivers must be held equally accountable for non-compliance. I have often joked that one way to ensure compliance would be to require the Nurse Manager, the CNO and CEO to attend retraining along with any caregiver who gets injured.

For hospitals that are concerned about weak compliance in their current SPHM program, I would recommend a complete review of the current policy to see if managers as well as caregivers are held accountable.

What we allow, we condone.  What we condone, we promote. If your policy is not enforced on a daily basis, then you’re promoting non-compliance. To paraphrase Dr. Stephen Covey, your hospital is perfectly designed to get the results you’re getting right now! 


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4 Steps for Starting a Safe Patient Handling & Mobility Program
By Patti Wawzyniecki, MS, CSPHP

Like all important projects, groundwork needs to be completed before you begin asking for equipment and resources. Here are the 4 steps you need to take to successfully begin a Safe Patient Handling & Mobility (SPHM) program within your organization.

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Step 1: Establish a broad outline of your SPHM plan, including an initial goal.

This will help you focus your efforts and allow your supporters to see the benefits. The outline should emphasize the scope of the initial program and the savings the organization will achieve. Think of how you can best mesh your SPH efforts with other ongoing safety programs, and ask yourself the following three questions:

  1. What is your organization focusing on right now?
  2. How does SPHM and employee safety fit in with these efforts?
  3.  Will your initial plan be a program within your entire organization, or just a trial within a few units?

Your initial goal needs to be measurable and feasible. It may include establishing a committee (independent or part of a larger committee), upgrading and increasing your inventory of equipment, and/or improving record keeping. Be as specific as you can while keeping your resources in mind.

Step 2: Enlist the support of a stakeholder, champion or senior management supporter within your organization.

The right supporter can move your program from an idea to reality. Does your organization have a risk manager, quality VP and/or nursing director who’s open and driven to protect both patient and employee safety? Other possibilities include an HR manager, or an employee health manager. If you have difficulty, you may need to look for an external supporter, such as your Workers Compensation (WC) insurer. Your WC insurer may be able to open discussions with senior leaders about the cost of injuries to the organization, then link them to you.

Step 3: Gather some preliminary injury data and costs.

This may be a time-consuming task, but don’t give up — it’s vital to your efforts. See what is readily available to you now, then explore how to access all of the data you will need. If you have access to WC costs, you can sort them by activity/task for a total of patient handling costs. If incident descriptions are poor or don’t exist, then you can use industry-wide estimates to measure musculoskeletal or patient handling costs. No WC data yet? – Use your OSHA logs or employee health records. If your employees go to your emergency department or an external provider, investigate accessing their record-keeping system for employee visits and details. The more data you have in your initial proposal, the stronger the business case will be to present to management.

Step 4: Strengthen your qualification and education in SPHM.

Make sure you are up-to-date on the requirements from state, federal, professional and other regulatory organizations that have jurisdiction over your organization. Expand your knowledge and stay current on best practices and new technologies for risk reduction and injury avoidance. Note that new products and changes in recommended practices are advancing rapidly in the field of SPHM. Join a professional organization, and become certified to stay on top of the changes. The stronger your credentials are, the higher your credibility will be within your organization. Keep in mind that OSHA now includes SPHM coordinator credentials in its current inspections of healthcare organizations.

If you’re looking to get certified, visit http://www.asphp.org/.


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