News & Events

MNA member fights to reduce back injuries for all nurses

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
March 2005 Edition

By Chris Pontus, MS, RN, COHN-S
Associate Director, Health & Safety

Beth Piknick has been an active member of MNA work groups. She has served on the Cabinet on Labor Relations, the MNA Board of Directors, the Congress on Health and Safety and now as the chairperson of the Safe Patient Handling Task Force.

Piknick’s initial involvement with preventing back injuries for health care workers came about after she injured her back and was out of work for 2 1/2 years. Her career as an ICU nurse is over and she can never do direct patient care again.

When she returned to work, she was employed with permanent restrictions in the employee health department of her facility. Piknick was then in a position to request a trial for various lifting devices throughout the facility. The assistant director of the department prepared a detailed account of the cost to the facility and consequently received approval to proceed with the trial. Based on staff preference of a particular lifting device, five more were purchased.

Piknick was able to bring her experiences to the Congress on Health & Safety where she received additional feedback from other facilities. Evie Bain encouraged her to become involved in preparation of a textbook for publication regarding the impact of back injuries to health care workers.

Piknick became involved with the task force after reading about legislation in California and in other countries and did not see why Massachusetts couldn’t be in a leadership role regarding this type of legislation. Her hope is that the work she does with the Safe Patient Handling Task Force will raise awareness to help pass a bill entitled "An act relating to safe patient handling in certain health facilities." The bill, which would mandate safe lifting practices, was filed by the MNA in early December 2004 for consideration during the up coming 2005-2006 Massachusetts legislative session.

"This bill has great importance," according to Piknick. "Its passage will mean that the onus will be on the facility to supply appropriate equipment to prevent injuries, some of which can be life altering or careerending." Piknick also pointed to the benefit that passage of "An act relating to safe patient handling in certain health facilities" might have on medical facilities.

"This legislation could not only prevent a lot of unnecessary suffering of staff, it could also save facilities money in the end," she said. Piknick’s involvement with this task force affords her the opportunity to attend a national conference on cutting-edge research, providing her with invaluable information and contacts. Finally, the task force is spearheading the passage of Safe Patient Legislation, which will positively affect all healthcare workers in every healthcare facility in the commonwealth.