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  • Health Care Worker Injuries Due to Patient Handling Continue to Rise

    According to a new report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health care workers are still number 1 when it comes to on-the-job injuries, accounting for 20% of all nonfatal occupational injuries across the country.

    And the most prevalent source of health care worker injury? Patient handling.

    In a report that reviews Occupational Health Safety Network (OHSN) data from 112 health care facilities with a total of 162,535 full-time employees, the CDC found that patient handling injuries occurred at an average rate of 11.3 per 10,000 worker-months; with slips, trips, and falls occurring at a 9.6 rate, and workplace violence from patients at 4.9 per 10,000 worker-months. All 3 categories have been on the rise over the past 2 years.

    The report cited nurses and nurse assistants as the most frequently injured health care staff, with nurse assistants recording a patient handling injury rate of just over 35 per 10,000 worker-days, and nurses reporting a rate of 16. According the report, upping the risk factors for nurses are a growing number of obese/overweight patients, high patient-to-nurse ratios, long shifts, and increased efforts to mobilize patients as soon as possible after a medical procedure.

    Although the report did not include physical therapists (PTs) or physical therapist assistants (PTAs) as a separate category, research that appeared in a 2014 issue of PTJ estimated the 1-year work-related injury rate for PTs at 20.7%.

    "Similar to findings from other studies, OHSN data indicate that [the use of lifting equipment and other interventions] could potentially reduce patient-handling injuries, particularly for activities involving positioning, transferring, or lifting a patient," the CDC writes. "Additionally, to prevent patient-handling injuries, health care institutions might establish a safety culture emphasizing continuous improvement and … provide resources such as training in safe patient handling."

    APTA provides multiple resources on safe patient handing for physical therapists and physical therapist assistants through an association webpage devoted to the topic. In 2012, APTA joined a broad-based effort by the American Nurses Association to establish national standards on safe patient handling.


    • any research in how far healthcare workers fitness-for-the-job-level, or lack of, contributes to the high injury rate? maybe it is time to 'demand' that healthcare workers also have the physical fitness level to do the job, beyond computer work........

      Posted by ineke groenwold on 7/4/2015 6:38 AM

    • I agree with Ineke. Back in 1984, I worked in a stroke rehab hospital where the patient rooms were on the 2nd floor. We evacuated the building for fire drills with patients in their w/c's -- 2-person assist with one above to manage the tilt of the chair, and one below to guide. One slow elevator meant we preferred to back them up the stairs after! No one got hurt because we were all smart about body mechanics, and we were all fit. With the rate of obesity of both patients and caregivers, it's sad to see the consequence/ cost of injuries to workers. Employers should be able to protect themselves from un-fit workers -- but they might have to pay more for it. (Maybe they've run the numbers and it's still cheaper to pay-out for work-comp than to pay better wages to stronger workers).

      Posted by Jeannie Cushman -> >JVaE on 7/4/2015 4:32 PM

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