By: Tim Foulks
At the onset of an injury requiring medical assistance, treatment may be provided through a variety of inpatient and outpatient facilities. Medical attention can be provided in ambulances, emergency rooms, acute care and long term care hospitals, the patient’s home, and in the case of the elderly, in nursing homes. In each of these settings, patient handling tasks occur that can require the medical caregiver to overexert themselves and put themselves into physically compromising positions. Ironically, the very population intended to treat our injuries are exposed to awkward-lifting related injuries at up to six times the average rate. In fact, in 2011 when overexertion injuries for all industries were reported at a rate of 38 per 10,000 full time workers, the same type of injuries resulted in the following rates for medical caregivers: (1) 76 per 10,000 workers for hospital workers, (2) 132 per 10,000 workers for nursing home workers, and (3) 238 per 10,000 workers for ambulatory care professionals (CDC, 2016). These figures are alarming and suggest a need for greater patient handling techniques that will reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury. Before arriving at solutions for patient handling, it’s essential to understand the factors that contribute to these injuries and how to identify high risk patient care tasks.