Loss Prevention professionals will often say: “Give me a standard to cite so that my recommendations for improvement are viewed by the client as having credibility.”  Professionals are often challenged to cite “Industry Best Practice,” however, it is difficult to refer to standards that may not be uniform across the industry, such as has been the case with the healthcare industry. Until recently, this lack of uniformity made it difficult to sell the idea for appropriate Patient Handling practices. SafePatientWith the advent of a book recently published by the American Nurses Association (ANA), we finally have a comprehensive Industry Best Practice standard that is worthy of citing: Safe Patient Handling and Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards.

In my 35-year career as a Loss Prevention professional, the statistics detailing the need for Industry Best Practice standards in healthcare have become more and more convincing. To put it simply, of all the professions I have consulted with across the country (including logging), the healthcare industry rate of injures is higher than any other. Worse yet, this is within a stable environment where injuries should be nearly nonexistent. It is an area where I have experienced some of the most heated debate over comprehensive Industry Best Practice. And yet, these facts remain irrefutable:

  • Across all industries, overexertion injury rates trend in the neighborhood of 38 per 10,000 full-time workers
  • For hospital workers (mostly nurses), that trend nearly doubles to 76 per 10,000 full-time workers
  • For nursing home workers, the trend triples to 132 per 10,000 full-time workers
  • For ambulance workers, the trend reaches a staggering factor of six times, to 238 per 10,000 full-time workers who suffer from an overexertion injury

Why are these numbers so high and what is the outlook? Consider three additional factors contributing to the established fact that Patient Handling is one of the most debilitating job tasks:

  • Patients are getting heavier due to rising obesity
  • The workforce is growing older, with an average age range of 44 years for healthcare workers
  • A significant shortage of healthcare workers is placing greater stress on the already strained workforce

Today’s healthcare industry is in crisis on a number of different fronts. Usually a crisis drives change, and often for the better. In this case, the ANA has nailed this issue right on, creating a collaborative standard, which incorporates the thinking from many industry-leading professionals. In my opinion, the ANA is in the process of initiating positive change for the industry. Each of the following eight standards outlined within the book incorporates a series of Best Practice steps that map a path to success:

  1. Establish a culture of safety
  2. Implement and sustain a safe patient handling and mobility (SPHM) program
  3. Incorporate ergonomic design principles to provide a safe environment of care
  4. Select, install and maintain SPHM equipment
  5. Establish a system for education, training and maintaining competence
  6. Integrate patient-centered SPHM assessment plan of care and use of SPHM technology
  7. Include SPHM in reasonable accommodation, and post-injury return to work.
  8. Establish a comprehensive evaluation system

The book is a great Industry Best Practice resource for any individual whose responsibility involves the care and movement of another person, or for other professionals involved in related Loss Prevention work. It offers practical guides based on real-life scenarios found in hospitals, homes, and in the field, as well as other important insights.

For more information see: Safe Patient Handling and Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards, along with the Implementation Guide. Or contact: American Nurses Association at NursingWorld.org.

Dan Cote, CPCU, MBA, MS, is an industry leader in Loss Prevention and a nationally recognized authority in the safety and health arena. As Managing Director, he oversees quality assurance operations at Alexander & Schmidt and heads up the firm’s risk improvement consulting practice. Prior to joining Alexander & Schmidt, Dan served as Sr. Vice President, Safety Consulting, at MEMIC in Portland, Maine. At MEMIC, he designed and coordinated development of safety consulting strategy with a primary focus on workers’ compensation loss prevention and leadership development. Dan also worked for nearly 10 years at USF&G Insurance Co., serving in three leadership roles: Loss Control Regional Manager, Branch Loss Control Manager, and Safety Consultant. (See Dan’s full bio)