Carrot or Stick: New Equipment, Standards and Regs Drive More Hospitals to Improve SPHM Programs January 15, 2016
Happy New Year, everyone! The IVEA kicked off 2016 in good company with an appearance in the January issue of Healthcare Purchasing News, http://digital.hpnonline.com/editions/A3y8ca/1601-HPN/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl.
The article on page 14, titled “Safe Patient Handling: Calls for Support Growing Louder,” discusses the need not only for best practices but also for the right tools to protect nurses and caregivers from getting hurt while handling patients. The IVEA is mentioned, along with equipment from Hill-Rom, Linet and other industry heavyweights, as a patient-mobility solution that can help hospitals keep their staff and patients safe.
Anecdotal evidence of the risk to nurses from lifting and moving patients is plentiful, but data drives change, and this piece includes some of the most compelling stats out there:
- According to the ANA 42 percent of nurses report a significant risk to their safety from lifting or repositioning patients.
- More than 50 percent say they regularly experience shoulder, neck, back and arm pain while working
- According to OSHA, patient-handling claims account for about 25 percent of all workers’ compensation claims, which average $15,600 per claim
So far, 11 states have enacted safe patient handling laws, and it’s estimated that 11 percent of the country’s 5,400 hospitals have implemented their own “successful” safe patient handling programs. Those are paltry numbers, but the announcement last month that members of Congress have reintroduced the Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act might compel more hospitals to jumpstart their SPHM programs.
The bill acts on the “increasingly clear fact that nurses are suffering too many serious, preventable injuries due to unsafe patient-handling practices.” It would ensure that nurses and healthcare workers have the tools they need to do their jobs safely by requiring OSHA to set a new standard for the use of proper equipment and safe lifting practices to minimize the risk of injury.
In the HPN article, Susan Gallagher, PhD, RN, a board member of the Association of Safe Patient Handling Professionals, suggests that the ANA’s national SPHM standards, introduced in 2013, will be most likely to influence reform. “We finally have national standards,” she says. “We didn’t have that before. We didn’t know how to quite interpret all of this.”
Gallagher thinks hospitals will be compelled to improve SPHM practices less by the perceived stick of regulatory reform and more by the carrot of potential savings and healthier staff. She cites examples, such as The Veteran’s Health Administration Safety Patient Center, which introduced SPHM programs in seven facilities and saw a net savings of $200,000 per year.
In the article Gallagher also notes the importance of identifying internal champions who can provide training and get staff engaged. “People think it takes so much time to use the equipment,” she says, “but just like anything, once you become comfortable with the technology – and it’s the right technology – then it is used.”
The right tools are as essential as any protocol, and the variety of devices described in the article makes it clear that the technology is available. Firefly’s own Steve Schmutzer puts it well when he says, “You can give eight guys shovels and tell them to dig a ditch; they’ll get it done, but one guy with a small excavator will get the same job done more quickly” and more safely.
Given the prevalence of injuries that can force nurses to abandon their livelihoods, it’s crucial that hospitals evaluate their SPHM programs with a critical eye. And when you consider all of the quality indicators linked to handling and mobility – pressure ulcers, falls, infections, readmissions – it becomes painfully clear that every day of delay can equate to dollars lost.