1. Nelson, Audrey PhD, RN, FAAN

Article Content

Each year, thousands of our colleagues sustain musculoskeletal injuries associated with patient handling; some of these injuries are career ending. Regardless, the consequences are far reaching, with negative impacts on the injured nurse, deleterious effects on quality of patient care, and significant costs to the healthcare facility and society. The saddest part of this story is that these injuries are largely preventable. For the last decade, technological innovations in the form of ceiling-mounted patient lifts, air-assisted lateral transfer devices, powered stretchers, and height adjustable examination tables have nearly eliminated the need for manual patient handling. Despite these advancements, nurses continue to shun these devices, preferring the outdated methods they learned decades ago in nursing schools. Healthcare facilities continue to offer up nurses as "human sacrifices" rather than allocate funds to purchase patient-handling devices. Unfortunately, there are no longer sufficient quantities of nurses available to replace this growing cohort of injured nurses.

Figure. Audrey Nelso... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. Audrey Nelson PhD, RN, FAAN

The science of patient handling is evolving; in addition to the technology advancements, we have started to examine the unique risks in specialty nursing practice. NAON has emerged as one of the leaders in seeking ways to protect orthopaedic nurses from risks associated with patient handling. Partnering with the Veterans Administration, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, American Nurses Association, and others, they have forged a path for new science that first identified unique high-risk tasks in orthopaedic nursing and then sought evidence-based solutions for reducing the risk. Many NAON members contributed by responding to questions on the NAON listserve related to high-risk orthopaedic nursing tasks performed in a variety of applicable settings, such as hospitals, outpatient surgery, clinics, perioperative, and others. Of these tasks submitted, the most frequent and/or highest risk tasks were selected for further evaluation. Using available science, solutions were identified. In some cases, gaps in technology were identified. A special session was held at a NAON national conference to clearly identify these gaps and urge industry to develop additional technology solutions. Industry responded with intensive research and development, and new products continue to emerge to meet these identified gaps.


This issue reflects the thoughtful work of NAON and its partners to build science in the area of caregiver safety. Through these beginning efforts, NAON is leading the way for other specialty nursing organizations. You have a critical role in applying this research to practice. Efforts are needed to clearly articulate this new approach to healthcare facilities across the country. The emphasis is shifting from conducting research in the area of safe patient handling toward how best to implement this new research and technology in busy clinical settings. It is possible that we need to alter care processes, redesign care delivery, and incorporate equipment purchases into budgets. Implementation may vary by type of setting. We need to overcome barriers to change, including knowledge and skill gaps associated with new devices, cost of purchasing patient-handling equipment, and getting "buy-in" at all levels of the organization. This call to action for NAON to "implement" is timely and necessary. Identify ways you can make a difference. Your actions may make a difference in saving yourself or your colleagues from a career-ending injury.