Safe Patient Handling and Mobility Program improves staff and patient safety

An average nurse lifts the weight of a giraffe – 18 tonnes – in an eight-hour shift. Manually lifting, transferring or repositioning patients is a daily task for many health professionals. It is also a common source of musculoskeletal injury.

To help prevent this type of injury, Nova Scotia Health Authority, Workers’ Compensation Board of Nova Scotia, AwareNS, Department of Labour and Advanced Education, and the Health Sector Council worked together to create the Safe Patient Handling and Mobility Program. The program is built on the principle that reducing employee injury also improves patient care. By promoting the safe movement of patients, the program is designed to reduce patient falls, reduce pressure ulcers and increase patient satisfaction.

When an employee experiences a musculoskeletal injury, the impact is far-reaching. The person faces limitations to mobility, pain or discomfort, all of which affect those closest to them too. These injuries also result in lost time for the employee, increased workload for their team, and replacement costs.

The Safe Patient Handling and Mobility program, piloted at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Antigonish in 2015-16, includes assessing risk, providing education, training and assessment tools to staff, introducing regular safety huddles and ensuring the safe use of proper equipment. The program, supported by policy, is continually monitored and evaluated.

Lee Boyle, physiotherapist at St. Martha’s, believes the program is achieving its goal. “At the end of the day, we all want the same thing. We want to keep patients moving and we want to keep everybody safe. The Safe Patient Handling and Mobility Program is allowing us to do that.”