July 30, 2004

Smooth Moves training created to help staff avoid injuries from patient lifting, moving

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On Tuesday, nurses looked over new equipment available to help move patients. Julia Rust-Jones, an occupational therapist, left, moves mock patient Anita Chesney, R.N., M.P.H., on an air mattress with the help of equipment vendor Matt Sears, right. Photo by Neil Brake

Smooth Moves training created to help staff avoid injuries from patient lifting, moving

To help staff avoid injury when lifting and moving patients, a new Vanderbilt University Medical Center program called Smooth Moves combines staff training, patient assessments and the latest equipment.

Employee injuries from lifting and moving patients are on the rise nationally, said Melanie D. Swift, M.D., medical director of the Occupational Health Clinic and project director for Smooth Moves. The trend is associated with increases in the average weight of patients and the average age of nurses, she said.

“Increasingly we see nurses with serious injuries as a result of lifting and handling patients,” said Chief Nursing Officer Marilyn A. Dubree. “Nationally, more than one in 10 nurses are considering leaving the profession because of the physical demands. It’s a shame to have that kind of side issue distracting people from their careers. … We want to get this done and see as quick an improvement in our work life as we can.”

In Smooth Moves training, employees who work with adult inpatients will learn about the hazards posed by lifting and moving patients; they’ll learn about newly available equipment and supplies, from slippery sheets to free-standing lift machines, that can help them accomplish their work more safely; and they’ll learn how to assess each patient to determine the equipment and staff needed to move the patient safely.

Swift said that comprehensive programs such as Smooth Moves, combining training, technology and patient assessments, have been shown to reduce inpatient workers comp costs by as much as two-thirds.

Vanderbilt’s ergonomic program has long been working to reduce work injuries, though most people are familiar only with the program’s more traditional office ergonomic training. Vanderbilt ergonomist June MacNeil is now focusing more of her attention on patient care areas.

“With new resources, we can now move into a more active phase in our work with caregivers,” MacNeil said.

Smooth Moves training has been preceded by a unit-by-unit assessment of equipment needs. On Tuesday staff had an opportunity to look over equipment from several vendors and make purchasing recommendations.

Conducted by the Learning Center, the training is expected to take about two hours. Hospital units 11 South, 10 South, 9 North and South, 7 north and 4 South will undergo training first. The program will extend throughout the adult hospital within three years, Swift said.

To assess the program, Swift’s team will track employee injuries, workers comp costs, and lost productivity due to injury.