Why is there a need for a safe patient handling act?

It’s a win-win for both hospital personnel and patients. Here’s why:

In New Jersey — nurses, nurse aides, orderlies, and attendants have the highest number of nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses involving days away from work than other occupations.

Chronic back pain and other job-related musculoskeletal disorders contribute to the decision of nurses and other health care workers to leave their professions, which adds to the shortage of healthcare providers.

Studies show that manual patient handling and movement negatively affects patient safety, quality of care and patient comfort and satisfaction;

The American Hospital Association stated that work-related musculoskeletal disorders account for the largest proportion of workers’ compensation costs in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

Studies demonstrate that assistive patient handling technology reduces workers’ compensation and medical treatment costs for musculoskeletal disorders among healthcare workers. Employers can recoup their initial investment in equipment and training within three years.

Within 36 months of the effective date of this act, each covered healthcare facility (such as a hospital, nursing home, licensed specialized care) shall establish a safe patient handling program to reduce the risk of injury to both patients and healthcare workers at the facility.

What does the safe patient handling act include?

Assisted patient handling means patient handling using: mechanical patient handling equipment including, but not limited to, electric beds, portable base and ceiling track-mounted full body sling lifts, stand assist lifts, and mechanized lateral transfer aids; and patient handling aids including, but not limited to, gait belts with handles, sliding boards and surface friction-reducing devices.

A safe patient handling program shall include:

  • A safe patient handling policy that minimizes unassisted patient handling, taking into account the patient’s physical and cognitive condition and a policy that is consistent with the patient’s safety and well-being.
  • An assessment of what assistive devices are needed to carry out the safe patient handling policy;
  • A training program for healthcare workers who need to properly learn how to use the equipment;
  • Recommendations for a three-year capital plan to purchase safe patient handling equipment and patient handling aids required to carry out the safe patient handling policy;
  • Procedures for assessing the appropriate patient handling requirements of each patient for the facility;
  • A plan for achieving prompt access to and availability of mechanical patient handling equipment and patient handling aids;
  • A provision requiring that all such equipment and aids be stored and maintained in compliance with their manufacturers’ recommendations.