May 11, 2007

Patient-lifting system helps reduce caregiver injuries

Featured Image

Vanderbilt nurses, from left, Megan Henneberg, R.N., Kim Farmer, R.N., and Alicia Baity demonstrate the Smooth Moves patient handling system last year with Rod Sanchez of Diligent Inc. (photo by Neil Brake)

Patient-lifting system helps reduce caregiver injuries

Smooth Moves, the patient-handling system launched at Vanderbilt University Hospital last year, is being credited with cutting in half the number of injuries sustained by caregivers while moving patients.

Smooth Moves uses special equipment and lifts to make moving and handling patients safer.

“The program is a big success,” said Melanie Swift, M.D., medical director of the Occupational Health Clinic. “It is no longer a separate program; it has become the way we handle patients at VUH. It is hardwired into the hospital.”

Swift says the program has succeeded because the nurses wanted to make this program work and because of the more than 160 unit champions who mentored their peers at every stage of the system's implementation. The champions received eight hours of additional training and a Smooth Moves champion is available at each unit during all shifts. There are quarterly champion classes to continually replenish the number of champions as people switch shifts and change departments.

“Our champions have become the content experts,” said Sharon Craig, M.S.N., Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner. “They know the equipment and are the 'go to' people for the units.”

Smooth Moves is also the recipient of an 18-month Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant for evaluating whether this equipment could possibly extend the career span of nurses.

The Smooth Moves team has incorporated the patient handling system as part of new nurse training, annual competency checkups and soon it will be included in the Horizon Expert Documentation (HED) system. The team is also looking into the possibility of using Smooth Moves at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Additionally, the Smooth Moves team is looking at solutions for other areas such as Vanderbilt Home Care and Life Flight, which have unique patient handling challenges.

VUH's Smooth Moves program is also getting attention on the national scene. Various team members have presented at several national conferences and they frequently field inquiries from other health care organizations about the program.

This September, nurse executives from across the country will participate in the Nurse Wellness Conference to learn more about the system.

“There are multiple stakeholders throughout the hospital who have nurtured Smooth Moves,” said Craig. “It is pretty exciting to see how this process continues to grow and change the culture in the way we handle vertical and lateral patient transfers.”

Linda Larson, B.S.N., R.N., has recently become the new facilitator for the Smooth Moves Program. She has worked with frontline caregivers and seen firsthand the difference the Smooth Moves Program has made.

“I am committed to a sustained effort to see Vanderbilt's patient handling injuries decrease even further than they have so far, because our caregivers are one of the most valuable resources we have,” said Larson.