Safe Lifting Gets a Boost at Shore Health System

At Shore Health System the phrase “We’ve Got Your Back” is more than the offer of assistance among co-workers. It is the slogan adopted to remind everyone of the organization’s commitment to keep employees and patients safe from injury.

Shore Health System launched “We’ve Got Your Back” in early 2009 following a yearlong process of developing policies designed to reduce employee injuries associated with patient lifting and to maintain a safe environment for patients. Safe patient lifting is defined as the use of mechanical lifting devices instead of manual lifting when hospital employees must move a patient.

Judy Paul, BSN, RN, COHN-S, manager of Shore Works, Shore Health System’s occupational health division, chairs the safe lifting committee. She says, “Our committee’s first task was to establish a safe patient lifting policy, which we implemented in 2008. Our committee then focused on developing an extensive program to effectively implement and enforce the policy.”

Michael Zimmerman, vice president of human resources for Shore Health System, adds, “The ‘We’ve Got Your Back’ campaign formalizes a culture of safety that is at the heart of the patient care we provide and the work environment we maintain for our employees, volunteers and physicians.”

Topping the list of professions with the greatest risk of back injuries are nurses and nursing aides, radiology technologists and physical therapists. Caregiver back and neck pain is the most expensive medical condition in healthcare. Paul says, “Some studies have shown that during a typical eight-hour shift, a nurse lifts a cumulative weight of about 1.8 tons. After suffering a back injury, many healthcare providers lose their ability to work directly in patient care.”

Chris Parker, MSN, RN, senior vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer for Shore Health System, says, “As the current workforce ages and the demand for nurses, nursing techs, radiology techs and physical therapists rises, we need to do everything possible to keep our clinical staff safe as they do their jobs.”

Shore Health System invested in various pieces of equipment to assist staff as they transport patients who are hospitalized or receiving outpatient services. This system-wide initiative also focuses on education and awareness about safe lifting techniques.

Paul says, “Staff from across Shore Health System researched options for safe lifting equipment and made recommendations about what we should purchase. Our safe lift specialists and department lift coaches are now conducting training with employees in every clinical care unit so that everyone knows how to use the equipment to its fullest advantage.”

The lift equipment available at Memorial Hospital and Dorchester General Hospital include Liko Viking and Golvo lifts, stretcher chairs with lateral transfer boards, air slide mattress systems, rollbords and slider sheets.

“’We’ve Got Your Back’ is all about teamwork and approaching our work with a proactive, positive attitude toward safety,” says Paul. “Correct use of these tools eliminates straining of backs, necks and shoulders while keeping patients safe at all times.”