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Safe Patient Handling Bill Needs Perioperative Voice

Publish Date: January 20, 2016

Nurses suffer too many serious, preventable injuries due to unsafe lifting practices. Have you been injured as a result of manual patient lifting, or do you know someone who has?

Rates of occupational injuries for nurses and other health care workers are among the highest of all U.S. industries. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the single greatest risk factor for overexertion injuries in health care workers is manual patient handling, which the CDC clarifies as the manual moving, lifting and repositioning of patients.

Nurses are suffering too many serious, preventable injuries due to unsafe lifting practices. In December 2015, Representatives John Conyers (D-MI), Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Frederica Wilson (D-FL) and Senator Al Franken (D-MN.) reintroduced the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act, a bill designed to prevent the injuries health care workers face from manually lifting patients.

“We reintroduced this legislation because of the dangers that the women and men who care for us in our most trying times face on a daily basis,” said Rep. John Conyers. “H.R. 4266, the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act would ensure that those men and women are adequately protected from injuries caused by lifting and moving patients and other related job hazards. By literally lightening the burden on nurses, we can lessen the nursing shortage that is driving up health care costs across the country and denying patients the experienced caregivers they deserve.”

“Our nurses and health care workers provide essential care to millions of Americans, and they shouldn’t have to sacrifice their safety or their livelihood to do so,” Sen. Franken said. “Every year, thousands of these caregivers sustain serious injuries as a result of manually lifting patients. These injuries can cause a lifetime of chronic pain and even force nurses to leave the profession permanently. Our bill would ensure that nurses and health care workers have the tools they need to do their jobs safely, which would prevent injuries, increase patient safety, and reduce costs.”

“Too often we take nurses for granted, but we rely on the invaluable services they provide. Nurses literally do the heavy lifting when it comes to patient care and deserve systems designed to protect their health and safety. This legislation would help reduce the sometimes career-ending injuries that are completely avoidable,” said Rep. Wilson. Under the bill, each health care employer would have to: 1) develop a safe patient handling program; 2) purchase and maintain for use equipment that eliminates safe patient handling; 3) obtain input from health care workers regarding their program; 4) review and analyze data pertaining to the efficacy of the program; 5) evaluate safe patient handling as part of facility construction and remodeling; 6) educate and train workers on the standard, and safe patient technology and practices; 7) provide notice of rights under the standard; 8) perform an annual evaluation and respond to shortcomings; and 9) provide a right for nurses to refuse unsafe lifting assignments.

This federal legislation is important because only eleven states have enacted their own safe patient handling laws or rules, ten of which require a comprehensive program in health care facilities (California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington).

“Every day, nurses and other health care workers suffer debilitating and often career-ending musculoskeletal disorders when they manually lift or move patients, and work in pain. Manual lifting is an unacceptable risk and practice when we have the technology and knowledge to significantly reduce injuries. This bill signals that workers are not expendable and injuries are not tolerable as just ‘part of the job.’ It is a much needed step in the right direction to implementing safer programs that will help to save and extend the careers of thousands of registered nurses,” said American Nurses Association (ANA) President Pamela F. Cipriano, also noting that safe lifting technology and simple devices also prevent injuries to patients and preserve their dignity.

Perioperative nurses are among the most likely to suffer injuries due to manual patient lifting. Have you been injured as a result of manual patient lifting, or do you know someone who has? Senators and Representatives need to hear from their nurse constituents on the dangers of allowing health care facilities to proceed without effective safe patient handling programs. Take a moment today to share your story with both your representatives and the ANA.