After suffering an injury last year while moving a patient, Tanya Walsh, RN, coordinator of the No Lift Protocol at Highland Hospital, became concerned that other nurses might also injure themselves while working with patients.
Now, Walsh is spearheading an effort to raise patient lifting and safety awareness with staff nurses, and for help in her efforts she is utilizing the resources of the Safe Lifting Environment campaign.
It all starts with education, says Walsh, and without it nurses can find themselves in a difficult situation.
"In nursing schools, you are taught to use good body mechanics and limited use of lifting equipment to prevent injury," said Walsh. "You aren't taught all the core lifting components, partly because the new technologies today are making the old ways of lifting patients obsolete."
With the rise of patient obesity and the fast pace of the hospital, injuries can happen easily when nurses attempt to lift and reposition patients without help from other nurses or with the proper equipment.
"In 2005 alone, there were 18 nurses on my unit that suffered from lifting injuries and at around $100,000 per claim, the administration was open to a change," Walsh said.
So she set out to create a No Lift Protocol designed to decrease caregiver injury and promote independence of the patient population at Highland Hospital.
"First," said Walsh, "we chose to implement safe lifting techniques with our staff. We promote the use of patient lifts, plastic sheets and repositioning devices to move patients - and we try to work as a team as much as possible, even when we're in a rush."
With a significant decrease in injuries for the first quarter of 2006, and only one injury noted since implementing the No Lift Protocol, Walsh is ready to extend her efforts and make a difference for more nurses in the healthcare profession.
"By using the Safe Lifting Environment materials, I was able to further promote awareness of our own No Lift Protocol. I am utilizing the injury statistics as part of my program research, and we are raising awareness by using the safe lifting decals in conjunction with our No Lift Protocol," said Walsh.
With initial program success, the hospital administration is looking to Walsh to spread the No Lift Protocol throughout the facility.
"If we can make nursing conditions everywhere better and reduce the risk for injury, then maybe we won't have such a nursing shortage and we will be able to recruit more to our profession ," said Walsh.
The Safe Lifting Environment campaign is a non-profit, pro-bono campaign sponsored by Liko Inc., which is designed to raise awareness of safe lifting in the healthcare industry. The campaign materials include a "flash" animation for web sites, educational materials with injury statistics and graphic elements, as well as suggestions for use.