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New relief for your aching back

Publish Date: 7/3/2013

Nurses: Do you look for aspirin or ibuprofen at the end of a shift to soothe the aches and pains from your workday? 
Nurse leaders: Are you looking twice at the money spent on temp work and injury leave due to staff injury from unsafe patient handling?

The cumulative effects of musculoskeletal injuries in perioperative services take nurses out of the game too often and too early. When nurses can’t work because of these injuries, it puts a strain on staff resources and budgets—an average workers comp nurse musculoskeletal injury costs $12,000 per event.

Heavy lifting in periop care
Despite AORN and the health care community’s ongoing work with safe patient handling and mobility, most perioperative service areas do not have comprehensive programs in place to provide policies, equipment, education and competencies for safe patient handling and mobility.

“There is limited use of safe patient handling and mobility technologies in perioperative care,” notes AORN Perioperative Nursing Specialist Mary Ogg, MSN, RN, CNOR. “We do see widespread use of patient transfer rollers, but technology hasn’t kept pace with the OR’s needs for different patient transfer devices. Perioperative nurses are still moving patients manually for common transfer scenarios, such as moving patients from a supine to lateral position.”

Ogg says “Caregiver time and facility resources are required to assess, plan, implement and evaluate successful use of these technologies within safe patient handling and movement programs. Time and resources are limited, particularly for smaller hospitals and surgery centers.”

A new tool for periop safe patient handling
Last week the American Nurses Association (ANA) released Safe Patient Handling and Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards, a new publication that establishes realistic, evidence-based standards for a comprehensive, interprofessional safe patient handling and mobility program in any care setting, including perioperative nursing.

“ANA has long recognized the importance of preventing musculoskeletal injury, yet few nurses have pain-free work days,” notes Suzy Harrington, DNP, RN, MCHES, who has led the development of the standards and serves as director of ANA’s Department for Health, Safety, and Wellness. “We aim to change this with these universal standards, which give health care facilities a set of ground rules to facilitate the cultural changes and organizational acceptance needed to support safe patient handling and mobility.”

The standards were developed by an interprofessional group of subject matter experts including perioperative nurses, occupational and physical therapists, safety and ergonomics experts, and risk management specialists. The standards are based on evidence of effectiveness in improving patient outcomes and reducing workers’ musculoskeletal disorders, and include eight principles:

1. establishing a culture of safety
2. creating a sustainable program
3. incorporating ergonomic design
4. developing a technology plan
5. educating and training health care workers
6. assessing patients to plan care for their individual needs
7. setting reasonable accommodations for employees’ return to work post-injury
8. implementing a comprehensive evaluation system

“Perioperative nurses should use these new ANA standards as a framework to critically look at what their facility has in place so no pieces are missed,” suggests AORN Past President Deb Spratt, MPA, BSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, CRCST, CHL. “The ANA document also shows an organization how to look at its own experience in calculating return on investment for safe patient handling costs.”


Spratt and Ogg represented AORN in developing these new ANA standards and provided specific expertise in developing a technology plan (principle 4). They also have been integral in shaping AORN’s resources for safe patient handling and movement, including AORN’s Safe Patient Handling and Movement Tool Kit, which includes a pocket reference guide with seven algorithms for safe patient handling in the perioperative setting.

Ogg suggests the new ANA standards can be used in tandem with AORN resources to shape the framework and implementation details needed for a sustainable safe patient handling program.

New support for legislation
ANA also plans to use the standards to advance regulations and legislation to protect patients and health care workers from injury.
“Legislation gives teeth to important patient and staff safety initiatives like safe patient handling,” Spratt notes.

As part of AORN’s legislative priority to support workplace safety, AORN supports ANA and national safe patient handling legislation. Follow developments with ANA’s safe patient handling and mobility legislation through AORN’s public policy webpage.

Additional Resources
Learn more about ANA’s Safe Patient Handling and Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards and purchase the standards

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