Moving Patients is Super Dangerous

Moving Patients is Super Dangerous

Did you know that moving a patient is one of the most dangerous activities in hospitals? For both patients and staff, the logistics of moving a person is risky business. It’s among the biggest causes of injuries in hospital settings and presents unique challenges to staff. We’ve gathered a look at why this is such a big issue and what kinds of developments might be able to help.


Big Pains in the Neck

According to data from OSHA, nursing assistants had the second-highest number of cases of musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, in 2017. More recent data from 2019 showed these workers were among the occupations with the highest numbers of sprains, strains, and tears with about 13,390 such injuries. An additional 7,180 reported soreness and pain. Incidence rates involving days away from work for nursing assistants was shown to be the highest among other occupations for that year.

OSHA makes it pretty clear about why there were so many injuries for these workers.

“These injuries are due in large part to overexertion related to repeated manual patient handling activities, often involving heavy manual lifting associated with transferring, and repositioning patients and working in extremely awkward postures,” the administration said. “Sprains and strains are the most often reported nature of injuries, and the shoulders and low back are the most affected body parts.”

High-risk tasks include:

  • Transferring a patient from things like toilet, chair, bed, bathtub, etc.
  • Repositioning from side to side in bed
  • Lifting a patient in bed
  • Repositioning a patient in chair
  • Making a bed with a patient in it


Heavier and Older

According to OSHA, the reason it’s so dangerous to move patients is because Americans getting heavier and older.

“The problem of lifting patients is compounded by the increasing weight of patients to be lifted due to the obesity epidemic in the United States and the rapidly increasing number of older people who require assistance with the activities of daily living,” OSHA said.

Obesity ratings have been rising in the U.S. for some time now. According to the CDC, from 1999–2000 through 2017–2018, the prevalence of obesity increased from 30.5% to 42.4%. Also, the prevalence of severe obesity increased from 4.7% to 9.2%.

In terms of actual weight, an average adult male weighed about 189.4 pounds in 1999 and average females weighed about 163.8 pounds. Today, those figures are 199.8 pounds and 170.8 pounds, respectively.

Additionally, a growing population of senior citizens is going to lead to more caregiving activities involving lifting. The U.S. Census reports that “by 2030, all baby boomers will be older than age 65. This will expand the size of the older population so that 1 in every 5 residents will be retirement age.”


Tech and Training on the Rise

Given the prevalence of injuries and the growing risks, most major medical organizations have been investing in patient lifting equipment and training for some time now. These include systems like mobile hoists, hydraulic lifts, sit-to-stand devices, bath lifts, and more.

There have been several high-profile examples of hospitals and medical centers that have recouped their investments in lifting technology rather quickly. Most of these were due to significant reductions in things like workers compensation claims and employee turnover. OSHA documents several of these gains in its materials about safe patient handling, and describes that most companies see returns even on large, network-wide investments in equipment and policy updates.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about several new innovations in patient logistics. 2020 brought about a greater lifting need than ever before, regardless of age or size. Throughout the world, many intubated patients in intensive care units were placed in medically induced comas. This meant they needed to be turned several times a day, often requiring up to five or six staff members to achieve. Recent advancements have now made the process much easier, requiring only three people to safely hoist and turn the patient using a series of sheets and clamps. The new process has been patented and may soon see mass production.


An Elevated Concern

Moving patients in a hospital setting is dangerous for everyone involved and is likely to become an increasingly common activity over time in hospitals and other care settings. It is very likely we’ll be seeing medical organizations invest in new forms of patient logistics for the foreseeable future as the need to elevate greater numbers of people expands. Fortunately, advancements are taking place that will hopefully reduce the risks of injuries for medical staff and their patients.

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Category Features, Logistics