Nurses are exposed to numerous hazards at the workplace, but some of them can be averted or prevented to a significant extent. Musculoskeletal injuries related to patient handling (MIPH) are among such avoidable dangers.
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Musculoskeletal Injury Case
Zwerdling (2015) describes MIPH as a type of injury that can be eliminated in hospitals. He dwells on the personal case of Tove Schuster, who damaged a disk in her spine while helping a team of nurses to lift an overweight patient. She felt the pain immediately but chose to finish her shift. In the morning, though, she could not move without being in severe pain. Zwerdling (2015) uses this story as an introduction to speaking about back and other musculoskeletal injuries among nurses and informs the reader that more than 35,000 similar cases of different severity take place every year, which is greater than the rate of such injuries among construction workers (para. 9).
Possible Prevention Measures
Schuster might have paid more attention to her well-being, but she could hardly avoid this injury since patient lifting is a very common task. Zwerdling (2015) explains that nurses typically gather a team and lift the patient according to body mechanics techniques, which, however, does not prevent them from getting injured. According to Waters, Nelson, Hughes, and Menzel (2009), biomechanics (“the study of the mechanics of muscular activity”) and body mechanics (methods of lifting and moving that are supposed to be safer) are the typical measures that are aimed at helping nurses in patient lifting (p. 7). The authors also explain that while these measures can alleviate the danger but cannot eliminate it (p. 7).
Therefore, it may be helpful to make sure that the nurses are aware of the techniques and principles of both to prevent said injuries. However, the authors also insist that equipment-assisted patient lifting is much more secure; in fact, Waters et al. (2009) insist that patient lifting should be performed only as a combination of the equipment and safe movement methods (p. 7). This theory is proved by practice: Zwerdling (2015) mentions a number of hospitals (including, for example, the in the Department of Veterans Affair) that have been using such equipment and managed to reduce the lifting associated injuries among the nurses by up to 80% (para. 16).
The Consequences of the Accident
The hospital admitted that Schuster had a workplace injury that was not her responsibility. The disk in her spine was repaired, so she can “walk and sit again without being in excruciating pain,” but she will not be able to return to nursing career (Zwerdling, 2015, para. 8). Zwerdling (2015) does not mention organizational change occurring in her hospital.
Motivating for Safety
As demonstrated by Hedlund, Gummesson, Rydell, and Andersson (2016), safety motivation is comprised of clear goals that are supposed to be achieved through safe behavior, leaders’ support of safety policy and climate, relevant knowledge (education) and training for everyone involved, and the means of achieving and maintaining safety. The specific techniques that the authors suggest are correspondent: the nurses should be educated, and the communication of issues and suggestions should be encouraged.
Besides, the hospital needs to provide the means of creating an effective workplace and maintain and manage the safe environment. The authors conclude that all these interventions help employees perceive safety goals as important and attainable ones, which tends to raise safe working motivation (Hedlund et al., 2016, p. 160-161). This fact confirms the idea that the safe patient handling equipment is beneficial if not necessary.
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According to Waters et al. (2009), MIPH can be avoided through the implementation of safe patient handling method that combines the known biomechanics and body mechanics techniques with the use of proper equipment. What is more, the study by Hedlund et al. (2016) shows that the equipment will improve the motivation for safe patient handling among nurses. Therefore, to improve the nurses’ safety with respect to MIPH and their motivation to maintain a safe environment, the workplace needs to undergo certain changes.
Hedlund, A., Gummesson, K., Rydell, A., & Andersson, I. (2016). Safety motivation at work: Evaluation of changes from six interventions. Safety Science, 82, 155-163. Web.
Waters, T., Nelson, A., Hughes, N., & Menzel, N. (2009). Safe Patient Handling Training for Schools of Nursing. Cincinnati, OH: DHHS (NIOSH) Publication.
Zwerdling, D. (2015). Hospitals Fail To Protect Nursing Staff From Becoming Patients. NPR. Web.