One of my favorite nursing expressions is "Always double glove for dirty situations." It is very important, but the saying "save your backs" is far more crucial in our lines of work, while handling patients or making sure you've charted precisely. On a recent contract assignment I worked in a telemetry unit that had 4 nurses sustain back injuries in the same week, caring for the same patient.
According to the American Nurses Association, research on the impact of musculoskeletal injuries among nurses show that 52% complain of chronic back pain, 20% transferred to a different unit, position, or employment because of lower back pain, 12% considering leaving profession and 38 percent suffered occupational-related back pain severe enough to require leave from work. OSHA report estimates that the incidence rate for back injuries involving lost work days was 181.6 per 10,000 full-time workers in nursing homes and 90.1 per 10,000 full-time workers in hospitals annually.
Attempting to advocate for the nurses I was working with, I met with the physical therapy and occupational therapy department supervisor to pitch the idea of incorporating proper body mechanics and lifting techniques and tools education to the annual nursing competency evaluations, but the response was that it would probably not be viable due to budgets and staff overtime.
I have participated in such competency program that incorporated PT and OT teaching for proper patient handling and utilization of proper equipment during lifting and transferring patients, and don't think that those little patients won't hurt your back either, always using proper body mechanics and lifting tools regardless of patient size is ideal to conserve your backs.
I have found out that an important thing to remember is not to rush things, if you attempt to lift or transfer a patient in a hurry, you increase your chances of injuries. Also, team work, the more the merrier. Take that second to look for and/or to help your coworkers. Lifting and transferring patients in a group is easier for everyone involved. Keep equipment easily available in your unit, some units have an specific storage room for walkers and wheelchairs, keep hair belts some place you can easily find and use. Protect yourself and your patients, ask your supervisors for body mechanics and lifting techniques courses for the staff.
The Dude Nurse
Klaus Campos, BSN-RN