Students and faculty from Belmont University School of Nursing are currently participating in a nation-wide study aimed at reducing back injuries in the nursing profession. “In the past two decades efforts to decrease the risk of musculoskeletal injuries in the nursing profession have largely been unsuccessful,” said Dr. Lynne Shores, associate professor of nursing, and coordinator of the study project at Belmont. “Typical nursing school teaching methods have focused on manual lifting and ‘proper’ body mechanics, despite the fact that there are over 30 years of evidence that these approaches are not safe.”
When it comes to heavy lifting on the job, most of us think of furniture movers, or baggage handlers at airports, but as a part of their daily tasks, nurses lift, turn and move patients, some of whom weigh hundreds of pounds, which can result in serious back and muscle injuries. According to the US Department of Labor Statistics, nurses continue to have one of the highest job related injury rates of any occupation.
It is estimated that 12% of nurses leave the profession due to back injuries. The problem contributes to the nation’s nursing shortage, a shortage Belmont has stepped forward to help solve in Tennessee by building a new College of Health Sciences & Nursing building to enable the university to greatly increase its nursing program enrollment.
Safe approaches to patient handling are now available due to emerging scientific research, technologic innovation, and their application in real work settings. The incorporation of these methods in schools of nursing becomes critical in training a new generation of nurses to be better prepared to promote safety.
As a part of the effort to incorporate these new methodologies, students and faculty from Belmont University School of Nursing are currently participating in a nation-wide study aimed at introducing evidence-based methods of patient handling into the curricula taught in the classroom.
State-of-the-art lift equipment is on loan to the School of Nursing for use in nursing skills labs where nursing students begin their nursing curriculum. Each of Belmont’s current beginning clinical students has been taught to use the equipment for safe patient handling and movement. In addition, two groups of Nashville area nursing leaders have attended equipment demonstrations in the Belmont nursing lab.
“I am most excited about the impact that the new lift equipment can have on the quality of patient care, and the prevention of injuries for our nurses and other patient caregivers,” Shores said. “I look forward to having electric ceiling mounted lifts and other assistive equipment widely available in Nashville area hospitals and long term care facilities in the near future.”
The study, which is conducted in collaboration with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), American Nurses Association (ANA), and the Veterans Administration Patient Safety Center, evaluates 29 nursing schools around the nation for the implementation, and evaluation of safe patient handling and movement techniques.
The project will develop a much-needed educational and training resource on safe patient handling, and evaluate its effectiveness for use as a component of fundamental nursing education.
“We at Belmont are very excited to act as agents of change in healthcare to prevent musculoskeletal injuries through increased awareness, education, and the use of assistive equipment and patient handling devices,” said Dr. Chris Algren, Associate Dean of the School of Nursing at Belmont and director of the university’s Partners in Nursing Consortium, an effort to combat the nursing shortage by partnering with Trevecca Nazarene University, Volunteer State Community College and Nashville State Community College to increase enrollment in the nursing program.
“As our nursing students venture into the work field, they can serve as important advocates among hospital staff to adopt safe patient handling techniques and equipment,” Algren said. “The potential impact of this influence throughout the range of healthcare settings can be extensively diffuse, creating an improved working environment, in which our nurses do not sacrifice their bodies for the safety of their patients.”