Safe Patient Handling and Mobility (SPHM) - Public Health
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Safe Patient Handling and Mobility (SPHM)

Safe patient handling and mobility involves the use of assistive devices to ensure that patients can be mobilized safely and 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.

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 and Mobility Program at VA utilizes 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, falling or being dropped when walking. The program has led to an over 40 percent reduction in injuries to care providers since 2006.

SPHM technology can be used to mobilize patients easily, gently, earlier and progressively without risking injury to patients or caregivers. Using SPHM technology in early and progressive mobility programs promotes preservation of patient functional status and improves clinical outcomes.

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 and mobility task; 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 safe. Facility coordinators at each site sustain the program by making sure the right technology is available, the staff is competent, and needs are met.

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

National Public Radio featured VA’s Safe Patient Handling program in early 2015.


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