Regulatory Readiness: Embracing safe patient handling
Jaime Murphy Dawson MPH
Suzy Harrington DNP, RN, MCHES

Nursing Management
October 2012 
Volume 43  Number 10
Pages 15 - 17
  PDF Version Available!

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing personnel are among the highest at risk for developing musculoskeletal disorders. In 2010, nursing assistants, orderlies, and attendants had the highest rate of musculoskeletal injuries, above laborers and heavy truck drivers. RNs came in fifth, above light truck drivers and well above construction workers.1 Musculoskeletal disorders are more than just an inconvenience; these injuries can be debilitating, life altering, and career ending.The American Nurses Association (ANA) conducted its own Health and Safety Survey of nurses in 2011, in which 62% of the more than 4,600 respondents indicated that suffering a disabling musculoskeletal injury was one of their top three safety concerns. The survey also showed that 8 of 10 nurses worked despite experiencing frequent musculoskeletal pain, and that 13% were injured three or more times on the job within a year.2As ergonomic hazards have emerged as a primary health and safety concern among healthcare workers, professional nursing groups, labor organizations, employers, regulatory agencies, and the scientific community have converged to address the issue. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) released its "Guidelines for Nursing Homes: Ergonomics for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders" in 2009. In these guidelines, OSHA explicitly recommends that "manual lifting of patients be minimized in all cases and eliminated when feasible."3 Although only a guideline, and not a regulation, this statement reflects the recognition that manual patient handling is extremely high risk.In 2007, the Nurse and Patient Safety and Protection Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.4 Similar bills were reintroduced in 2009 in the House and the Senate. The legislation would have directed the Secretary of Labor to establish a safe patient handling standard intended to reduce injuries to patients, direct care RNs, and other

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