News & Events

MNA leaders address issue of safe patient handling during D.C. visit

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
November/December 2009 Edition

MNA president Donna Kelly-Williams, RN, and past president Beth Piknick, RN, traveled to Washington D.C. in October with Chris Pontus, associate director in nursing and a coordinator in the MNA’s health and safety division, to share their personal experiences regarding safe patient handling during a congressional staff briefing.

Each year, thousands of nurses and other health care workers are injured from manually lifting patients. The injuries are the cumulative effect of years of lifting more than the human body can handle. The rate of back, shoulder, and neck injuries among health care workers exceeds that of workers in construction, mining and manufacturing. As a result, 50 percent of health care personnel suffer from chronic pain and at least 12 percent leave their jobs due to permanent and disabling injuries.

Safe patient handling equipment—that eliminates the need for most manual patient handling—is available and has been for years. Programs combining appropriate equipment and training for personnel reduce injuries to workers/patients and are cost effective—reducing workers’ comp injury rates by up to 95 percent and workers’ comp costs by up to 75 per cent. But most health care facilities still do not purchase the equipment for their employees.

The briefing was organized in part by the Coalition for Healthcare Worker and Patient Safety.

The Nurse and Health Care Worker Protection Act of 2009 (H.R. 2381)— which the MNA supports—would require OSHA to develop a safe patient handling standard and require health care facilities to implement safe patient handling programs.