As one of only 12 people in the US certified as a safe patient-handling technician, Terri Elmore, a Physical Therapy Assistant at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, is on a mission to make the workplace safer for nurses.
According to US Bureau of Labor statistics, nurses are injured at a rate twice the US industry average and nurses are at more risk than those in manufacturing or construction industries. And almost half of those injuries are from overexertion or bodily reaction related to patient handling.
Terri has been leading efforts at Missouri Baptist Medical Center to reduce this risk to nurses since 2015 by ensuring compliance with OSHA requirements, obtaining proper equipment, educating nurses and patient care techs. She also fields more than 400 calls per month from care providers needing advice or assistance to safely move a patient. Her efforts have led to a 38% reduction in the number of injuries to staff from moving patients between 2015 and 2018.
In addition to working with the bedside nurses and patient care techs, Terri works with bed management to ensure the patient is placed in a room with the necessary equipment. She works with all inpatient divisions and ambulatory patient areas including Imaging, Therapy, ACC and the ED.
For instance, she was able to secure a car extractor for the ED to minimize the impact of patient handling on the staff. The car extractor is a portable lift that’s designed to assist people in and out of car. “Such tools help the staff reduce lifting and, in turn, patients are safer and at less risk from injury by being lifted when they cannot assist,” Elmore says.
Terri collaborates with vendors, BJC Ergonomics and hospital facilities to obtain equipment and ensure training and competency as well as engage in a collaborative relationship with nursing services to oversee the OSHA standards for SPH.
The process to become certified as a safe patient handling clinician, CSPHC, is rigorous, requiring a portfolio demonstrating competence, promotion and sustainment of a safe patient handling (SPH) program combined with successful passing of an examination that covers safe patient handling equipment, laws, architecture and education.
SPH is a growing profession focused on minimizing work related injuries. The emphasis on reducing injuries originated from a 1997 OSHA assessment which showed that nursing and patient care technicians had more back and shoulder injuries than most other occupations. Federal and state agencies in conjunction with the healthcare industry responded with organizational requirements to meet various regulations, such as limiting the amount of weight a care provider can lift to 35 pounds.
“I’m proud of MoBap for embracing the change. The benefit to our nurses and patient care techs is that they have a variety of patient handling equipment and, because they know how to use it, they have more confidence in themselves,” said Terri. “I want nurses to retire when their brain says it’s time, not when their body says it can’t take it anymore.”