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Safe Patient Handling

Safe patient handling involves the use of assistive devices to ensure that care providers avoid performing high-risk manual patient handling tasks. Using the devices reduces a care provider’s risk of injury and improves the safety and quality of patient care.

In recent years, a patient body weight of 35 lbs. was established as the maximum weight that providers can safely lift when lifting and moving patients without the risk of injury. This limit requires a new approach to lifting and moving patients.

A Safe Lift for Providers and Patients

A health care provider is using a ceiling lift to safely move a woman out of her hospital bed

Ceiling lift

The Safe Patient Handling Program at VA uses proven methods and the latest specialized devices and equipment to keep Veterans and staff safe when patients need to be moved and lifted.

The most important assistive device is ceiling lifts that help care providers transfer Veterans from beds to stretchers or wheelchairs and can even help them walk. Portable devices can be moved from room to room. The lifting equipment uses slings or vests to hold patients securely and reduce the risk of slipping or falling or being dropped when walking.

The program has led to an almost 50 percent reduction in injuries to care providers over the past four years.

Other important parts of the program are: ergonomic assessment of patient rooms and facilities; clinical/patient assessment algorithms to select the right equipment and number of staff for each patient handling task and patient; unit peer leaders who function as safe patient handling experts and staff trainers; and use of safety huddles to share information between staff that will keep staff and patients safer.

Learn more about safe patient handling programs and implementation, patient care ergonomic assessments, and patient handling technology from the VA Sunshine Healthcare Network Patient Safety Center of Inquiry.

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