April 11, 2008
Safe lifting at the MGH

lifting equipmentAs caregivers devote themselves to patient care and comfort, they may not realize that some of their repetitive or strenuous daily activities have the potential to cause injuries or strain. The Department of Nursing and MGH Occupational Health Services (OHS) is successfully addressing one of the leading causes of work-related injuries at hospitals the handling of nonambulatory patients.

To protect patients and staff during the lifting and repositioning of patients, Nursing and OHS investigated various technologies, piloting ceiling lifts on two inpatient units. Based on positive feedback from staff and patients, lifts were installed in all inpatient rooms on these floors to reduce preventable staff injuries and enhance patient care. To date, 12 inpatient care units have had lifts installed, and by the end of 2009 all units — with the exceptions of Psychiatry and the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit — are scheduled to be equipped with the lifts. Members of the nursing services and other caregivers have undergone comprehensive training in the effective and safe use of the lifts at the Norman Knight Nursing Center for Clinical and Professional Development.

GETTING A LIFT: An MGH patient on White 12 is helped by Alex Boed, RN, and Teresa Connolly, RN.

"Previously, staff used their own strength to pick up patients," says Gaurdia Banister, RN, PhD, executive director for the Institute for Patient Care. "This has the potential to cause musculoskeletal injury or strain over time. Nurses have reported great satisfaction with the ceiling lifts, which are just one of the ways we are fostering the safest environment possible for our staff and patients."

With the installation of the lifts, caregivers may observe a variety of benefits for patients, including a decrease in handling injuries and less discomfort when being moved. Ceiling lifts also have been used to help patients stand and walk. Kristin Parlman, PT, DPT, NCS, clinical specialist for Physical Therapy Services, described a scenario in which a patient with a brain injury was unable to roll, sit or stand due to a strong automatic pushing response against any manual assistance. With the ceiling lift and a gait sling attached, the physical therapist was able to provide the needed "hands-off" approach that enabled the patient to stand and take steps. Within the first treatment session, the patient progressed to walking and running within the safety of the ceiling lift system. This technology significantly contributed to the development of a plan of care that maximized patient participation.

"As we progress in cultivating a safety culture on our patient care units, we will continue to research and implement new technologies and approaches toward enhancing staff and patient safety," says Jeanette Ives Erickson, RN, MS, FAAN, senior vice president for Patient Care and chief nurse. "I would like to thank George Reardon, director of Systems Improvement, and his Management Systems team for leading the ceiling lift project. The effort supports our quality and safety goals and the goals of the Patient Care Services strategic plan."

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