Gundersen Lutheran Health System is Recognized for Safe Lifting Leadership

Gundersen Lutheran Health System of La Crosse, Wisc. has received the Safe Lifting Leadership Award from the healthcare injury prevention Web site, Safe Lifting Portal.

Gundersen Lutheran Health System includes a 325-bed teaching hospital and a Level II Trauma Center. As one of the leading medical facilities in the mid-west, the health system has received 11 top 100 designations. It serves patients throughout western Wisconsin, northeastern Iowa and southeastern Minnesota, providing care in 19 counties. The award was given in recognition of Gundersen Lutheran’s outstanding accomplishments in safe patient handling, safe lifting and caregiver injury prevention.

In 2003, Gundersen Lutheran Health System initiated a patient and staff injury prevention program. Key components of the program included installation of ceiling lifts to transfer patients, an extensive staff orientation and training program and on-going monitoring of usage compliance. The ceiling lifts were installed in units hospital-wide, including intensive care, coronary care, rehabilitation and PT, pediatrics, morgue, diagnostic areas and the OB/GYN water birth room.

Among the more significant results of the program have been substantial decreases in injury rates, reduced workers’ compensation costs and less employee lost time and restricted time. The program also has increased staff retention rates and proved to be an excellent staff recruitment tool.

Emphasizing Gundersen Lutheran’s firm commitment to patient and employee safety, Gary Brunslik, manager of safety, commented, “Preventing staff injury is good business from the financial standpoint, but also, it is the right thing to do.”

“We’ve been able to show a 57 percent decrease in the number of patient handling claims, which we feel is pretty significant,” added Kathy Weitekamp, RN, BSN, care manager. “Lost time has gone down 78 percent and restricted time has gone down 81 percent, so we’re very pleased. Our ceiling lift return on investment has been less than 3 years.”

Dr. William Scorby, medical director for Employee Health said the safe lifting program plays “an important role in staff retention and recruiting; keeping our experienced nurses safe and injury free while attracting new nurses trained in safe lifting techniques to Gundersen Lutheran.”

The objective of the Safe Lifting Leadership Award is to encourage other institutions to follow the lead of “best practices” institutions in their attempts to instill permanent, sustainable culture change – a culture of safety – within their organizations. Patient safety, advocacy for healthcare excellence, successful implementation of safe lifting initiatives and willingness to share results and assist other institutions are among key evaluation criteria for the award.

For more information on the Safe Lifting Leadership Award, visit

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