Musculoskeletal disorders resulting from patient handling and movement tasks continue to plague the nursing profession. Nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants rank second, and registered nurses now rank ninth in the Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics' (2005) "Occupational Injuries and Illnesses with Days Away From Work Involving Musculoskeletal Disorders." Although nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants moved down to the second rank from the first and registered nurses' rank dropped to ninth place, both the categories remain among the top 10 professions on a list with occupations such as construction workers, truck drivers, and laborers and have been on the list in the top 10 at-risk occupations since the inception of the record keeping.
Workplace design more commonly includes the installation of ceiling lifts when new construction or remodeling occurs in a healthcare setting such as hospitals. Gaps in the available technology that can help in the safe patient handling and movement are being recognized, and new patient handling and transfer devices are being developed.
In 2004, American Nurses Association (ANA), the National Institute of Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the Veterans Administration VISN 8 Patient Safety Center of Inquiry collaborated to develop a curriculum for use by schools of nursing to introduce safe patient handling and movement concepts into the curriculum of nursing students. The new curriculum would introduce research-based ergonomic concepts (fitting the job to the worker) into the education of nursing students. The end result would be that the gap between research, education, and clinical practice will close as newly prepared nursing students will be in leadership positions across the continuum becoming role models, and resource and change agents in the nursing profession. With the NIOSH funding, the partners were able to conduct a pilot study of 26 nursing program test sites and 3 control nursing program sites to study the impact of introducing safe patient handling and movement concepts. The results of the study and the curriculum will be available later in 2006.
Student nurses have become involved in the promotion of nurse safety. In April 2005, the National Student Nurses' Association (NSNA) House of Delegates passed a resolution in support of ANA's Handle with Care(R) program http://www.nsna.org/pubs/pdf/Resolution2005.pdf. The NSNA promotes constituents to "support legislation that requires employers to protect healthcare workers against musculoskeletal disorders."
Although there is no ergonomic standard in the United States since the final ergonomics rule issued by the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration in November 2000 was rescinded in March 2001, legislative action on safe patient handling and movement at the state level is assisting in having a positive impact on safe patient handling. Legislation or regulation has previously been enacted in California, New York, Ohio, and Texas. In 2006, legislation has been introduced in California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and West Virginia. In 2006, legislation and regulation have been enacted in Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Washington. Momentum is expected to continue in the United States at the state level in anticipation of an eventual no manual lifting policy at the National level (http://www.nursingworld.org/gova/state/2005/safepatient.htm).