Nursing & Healthcare News

Patient Handling Injuries

California law has helped, but better staffing may be needed

It’s now been almost five years since California implemented statewide standards for safer patient handling. New research shows that there’s still room for improvement.It’s now been almost five years since California implemented statewide standards for safer patient handling. New research shows that there’s still room for improvement.

Assessing the Regulations

Implemented in October 2014, California’s safe patient handling regulations have required hospitals to introduce additional equipment, procedures and training to help staff move patients with less risk of injury. The big question: Has it helped?

UCSF researcher Soo-Jeong Lee, RN, Ph.D., ANP, has spent years studying workplace injuries among healthcare workers. To assess the impact of the California law, she and her colleagues surveyed nurses in 2013 and 2016, both before and after the Cal/OSHA safe patient handling regulations took effect.

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The results, published earlier this year in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, suggest that the law has had some positive effects, albeit less dramatic than proponents may have hoped.

Technology Only a Partial Fix

The authors found that the regulations have brought about some important changes: more training, more powered lifts and better lift availability. The results also show some modest but significant decreases in certain types of serious musculoskeletal injuries.

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However, only 30.3 percent of 2016 respondents believed that those changes had made patient handling less risky for nurses. More than a third (35.8 percent) said their risk has actually increased since the enactment of the regulations.

Technology has proven to be only a partial fix. While powered lift devices have become more widely available, they still aren’t widely used. Almost half (46.8 percent) of 2016 respondents said they use lifts less than 25 percent of the time, perhaps because it’s often too distracting or time-consuming. “It isn’t easy to wait,” Lee concedes.

Lee believes that additional staffing might make a bigger difference, helping to ensure that there’s enough staff available to provide lifting support for nurses who need it, when they need it.


Aaron Severson is a freelance writer, editor, and writing consultant as well as the associate editor of Working Nurse.


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