Patient Handling in the Home Healthcare Environment

As our population ages, the need to provide in home healthcare services is increasing. This patient population is often faced with personal mobility issues which pose a unique challenge for home healthcare workers. Access to mechanical patient lifting devices is typically not a reality outside of a healthcare facility. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics from 2014, the incidence of musculoskeletal injuries among healthcare workers is at least twice as high as other industries. The single greatest risk factor for overexertion injuries in healthcare workers is the manual lifting, moving and re-positioning of patients, residents, or clients, i.e., manual patient handling.

When you consider the number of interactions that require home healthcare workers to assist a client with a mobility need, this injury rate translates into a large number of workers suffering injury daily. In a 2010 report on hazards encountered by home healthcare workers, DHHS identifies manual patient handling as a leading job hazard. The report notes that comprehensive ergonomic interventions using appropriate equipment and training have resulted in dramatic reductions in the incidence and severity of musculoskeletal injuries among healthcare workers. In studies published by NIOSH and OSHA on healthcare worker injuries, a few common factors are cited as contributing to the hazard of manual patient lifting:

  • Caregiver ergonomics are typically poor
  • A patient’s weight can shift while being assisted
  • Patients don’t have secure lifting points (handles)

What can be done to decrease the incidence of musculoskeletal injury among home healthcare workers related to patient handling? Both NIOSH and DHHS reports recommend that manual lifting be limited to instances where the patient is a “partial assist”, meaning that they are cooperative and can provide some help on their own. In these cases, it is recommended that healthcare providers use equipment to increase ergonomics and better control the patient while providing lifting assistance. 

Our patented Mobility Assistance Sling (MAS) kit is one such solution. The MAS is an 80” long patient handling sling that has rows of handles and a firm patient support surface in the middle. One sling can be used by one person to provide assistance in some limited situations, and two Mobility Assistance Slings are provided as a set to be used together to address several patient handling situations when two or more people are providing assistance. The MAS addresses the top concerns with manual handling of patients as referenced above. 

  • First, the MAS allows the healthcare worker to provide assistance from a more ergonomically correct position. Because the handles of the MAS are spread out over the length of the device, those aiding can select the handle to lift from that is in the best ergonomic position to do so.
  • Being in a better ergonomic position also means that if the patient's weight does shift, those aiding will be more likely to be able to quickly adjust to the change.
  • Similar to a gait belt, the MAS places handles on the patient. Unlike a gait belt however, the MAS can provide handles in several positions near the patient's waist, torso and shoulders depending on how the kit is used. This allows healthcare workers to lift from the position that is ergonomically the best for them. 

Home healthcare services are a vital element of the healthcare industry. Addressing issues that prevent home healthcare workers from functioning safely is a big concern.  Our Mobility Assistance Sling kit will help home healthcare workers help their clients while decreasing the incidence of exertional injuries at the same time.

 

References

NIOSH. (2014). Safe Patient Handling and Movement. Retrieved from CDC.gov.

OSHA. (2009). Guidelines for Nursing Homes OSHA 3182-3R, Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders. Washington, D.C.: Department of Labor.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2010). NIOSH Hazard Review, Occupational Hazards in Home Healthcare (DHHS Pub. 2010-125). Washington D.C.: DHHS.

BLS Table R8. Incidence rates for nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work per 10,000 full-time workers by industry and selected events or exposures leading to injury or illness, private industry,  2014.

Waters, T., Putz-Anderson, V., Fine, L. (1993).  Revised NIOSH equation for the design and evaluation of manual lifting tasks. Ergonomics36, 749-776.