How do you move an immobile patient laterally from their bed to a gurney without straining your back or shoulders?
What do OR, ER, and Radiology staff members have in common? Back and shoulder pain, as a result of performing lateral transfers on their patients. After working with health care professionals all over the country, and hearing what their cares and concerns are, we decided to investigate the cause of this wide spread problem. Of course injuries from lateral transfers are not limited to these three departments; everyone who is responsible for safely transferring a patient from one surface to another while in the prone position, i.e. from a bed to a gurney, understands the tremendous strain it can put on the back.
Why are Lateral Transfers such a universal problem? The answer is “Compression force”, which is the amount of pressure that is being put on your lower back every time you need to move a person (or even inanimate objects).
For instance, if you have a 100 lb patient lying in bed and you are going to reach over and grab them, and roll them towards you, the amount of compression force pressure that’s being put on your lower back is 1,002 lbs. force.
If you have an “average sized patient” of 150 lb, the pressure goes up to 1,314 lbs of compression force pressure.
Someone who weighs 250 lbs (not unusual anymore) would put 2,024 lbs of compression force pressure on your lower back.
Compression force pressure is accumulative. Many times, under this tremendous pressure, micro tears and micro fractures can occur. These do not heal before you have to move the patient again, and can get a little worse each time the pressure is reapplied.
These strains to the back and shoulders are universal in the healthcare industry, but honestly, how many hours of your schooling were focussed on the prevention of these injuries while performing your duties? If your school is like most, not much. Up until recently, nurses and CNA’s received basic training for moving patients, but back strains and injuries were simply considered part of the job. Little had changed in patient transfer practices over the decades, as nurses entered the workplace. Of course the practice of medicine has evolved existentially—but the basics had stagnated in comparison.
It’s time for patient care to evolve and catch up with the rest of the industry. Many new techniques, combined with proper equipment, are available to hospitals now, making it truly possible to have an injury free environment for both staff and patients, for the first time ever in the history of medicine.
Science has made it possible to make subtle changes in our work habits, for dynamic, powerful results. Thousands have been learning these incredible new techniques and are singing their praises.
Of course, when an industry evolves, choices have to be made—do we continue on—the way we always have, spending tens of thousands of dollars on medical bills for injuries received on the job that were completely preventable; or do we open our minds to embrace these new, scientifically sound methods and tools, saving tens of thousands of dollars on medical bills, improving quality of life for countless healthcare professionals, and providing higher quality service to our patients who trust us?