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Moving patients, maintaining dignity and reducing the risk of injury

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Healthcare workers who perform manual handling tasks such as patient lifts are placed at a great risk of suffering from musculoskeletal injuries. These include:

  • Muscle sprains and strains;
  • Ligament or tendon rupture;
  • Prolapsed intervertebral discs;
  • Tendinitis of the shoulders and elbows; and
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

So, it’s little wonder that so many facilities are adopting a technology led approach to reduce the risk of manual handling injuries to their patients and teams. 

In the paper, Improvements in patient handling for worker and patient safety, the Institute for Safety, Compensation and Recover Research examined current and emerging approaches for work and patient safety interventions. Amongst the many insights in this paper, it was determined that availability of sufficient equipment which reduces worker injuries and increases patient safety is critical. It was common for the hospitals to have successfully introduced equipment, overhead tracking and portable hoists. However key challenges faced included having sufficient equipment for staff to regularly use and making it convenient to access. Consideration needs to be given to addressing these challenges. Staff uptake of new equipment was best when the equipment was convenient to use and saved staff time. Regular equipment audits and an online directory of patient handling equipment are factors that influence the success of the equipment initiatives. 

One such hospital that has made a significant investment in patient handling technology from Wilhelm with great success is The St George Hospital in Sydney. St George was the first hospital in Australia and New Zealand to install Patient Lift Pendants (PLP) into an ICU, installing them in 53 ICU bays. 

In their report, Enhancing Patient and Clinical Outcomes Through Product Innovation, they found significant improvements in patient/care satisfaction and a reduction in lost time injuries and accidents though the introduction of Wilhelm’s PLP’s and Equipment Transfer System (ETS) technology. 

According to Clare Loveday, Nurse Manager, Intensive Care, St George Hospital “Now we’ve installed the pendants, it’s made our manual handling tasks so much better. It’s difficult to put that into words but it has made a huge difference”.

More recently we’ve seen The Canberra Hospital install the first PLP’s into an ICU in the ACT and SA’s Lyell McEwin Hospital install the first PLP in Resus Bay in Australia. 

Whilst the potential to reduce manual handling injuries in healthcare workers clear, the benefits to patients, particularly as it relates to their dignity, should not be underestimated. No one wants to be ill and in hospital, incapacitated, with limited mobility. Patients often want to maintain their independence and can be embarrassed when it takes a number of people to simply move them. 

Prior to installing a PLP and an ETS into their ICU, The Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital team had an occasion where they had to turn a 380-kilo patient. The patient lift required 8 team members to complete. With the Wilhelm solution lifting up to 454kgs, had the system been installed at the time, this could have at least halved the number of team members to perform the lift, made it safer for the team members and provided a safer, more dignified experience for the patient.  

With 67% of Australian adults being overweight or obese and severe obesity rising from 4.9% to 9.4% amongst Australian adults over the past 20 years, the potential for manual handling injuries from patient lifts without the use of PLP technology are no doubt going to increase. If you haven’t made the move to this technology, like the facilities mentioned here, then it’s worth considering. To find out more, contact us here.