News & Events

Nurses to Testify Tuesday at State House on Bill to Improve Patient Mobility, Limit Injuries to Healthcare Professionals

BOSTON, Mass. – Nurses and advocates will testify on Tuesday at the State House in favor of legislation to require improved patient handling practices in Massachusetts healthcare facilities, helping patients in recovery by enabling better mobility and protecting healthcare professionals from unnecessary injuries.

What:    A hearing before the Joint Committee on Public Health.

When:    1 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019

Where: Room 222 at the State House, Boston.

Bill Information: An Act relative to safe patient handling in certain health facilities (H. 3487/S.1213) sponsored by Rep. Claire Cronin, D-Easton and Sen. Harriette Chandler, D-Worcester.

As nurses move patients – each lifting 1.8 tons during an average shift – they are being injured at precipitous rates. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overexertion injury rate for hospital workers is 68 per 10,000. This is double the average overexertion injury rate across all industries of 33 per 10,000. Solutions have been proposed by both a state task force and the MNA, and yet the hospital industry has failed to act.

Patients also have less ability to enhance their recovery by moving quickly and frequently when they do not have access to safe patient handling equipment. A report by the Joint Commission said, “Patients are also at risk of multiple injuries and adverse events related to handling procedures. These include pain and discomfort as well as anxiety connected with being moved.”

“There is no reason for using 19th century patient handling protocols in 21st century hospitals,” said MNA President and RN Donna Kelly-Williams. “Every day that we do not take action to reduce these preventable injuries, more health care workers and patients are getting hurt and more costly workers compensation claims are being filed.”


• Requires health care facilities to establish a safe patient handling committee to design and recommend the process for implementing a safe patient handling program and to oversee the implementation of the program.

• Requires health care facilizes to adopt and implement a safe patient handling program to identify, assess, and develop strategies to control risk of injury to patients and health care workers associated with the lifting, transferring, repositioning, or movement of a patient or equipment.

• Requires health care facilizes to acquire any equipment deemed necessary by the safe patient handling committee.

 • Implementing safe patient handling practices will reduce work related injuries, decrease unsafe handling variability across health care facilities, create standards for measuring outcomes and protect patients.

Beth Piknick, a nurse who worked for many years at Cape Cod Hospital, has been advocating for change for 25 years, since she was injured moving an ICU patient.

“My family had to cope with both my physical and now my psychological problems as well. The true cost to them can never be quantified,” Piknick said. “One of the most surprising and disturbing moments in this whole experience was when I learned that my injury could have been prevented. I thought my facility was up to date with equipment. It wasn’t. There is equipment available for every lift and/or movement that is necessary to safely take care of our patients.”

DPH Report on Safe Patient Handling

The state Department of Public Health has published a detailed report on safe patient handling with recommendations that mirror the solutions in this legislation. A task force created by DPH issued the report in 2014, making clear both the scope of the patient handling problem and the hospital industry's unwillingness to implement comprehensive injury prevention programs.

Massachusetts hospital workers suffer back and other severe patient handling injuries at a rate 70 percent higher than for hospital workers in other states, according to the report. In 2010 alone, an estimated 1,000 Massachusetts health care workers suffered patient handling injuries so severe that they resulted in 59 years of missed days of work. Yet only 44 percent of the 88 hospitals surveyed by the task force reported having a written safe patient handling program in practice.

Dan Rec knows what it is like to work at a hospital that is taking the right steps to protect health care workers. At Brigham & Women’s Faulkner Hospital, where Rec is a registered nurse, staff members use HoverMatts that allow patients to float on a cushion of air, so caregivers can safely transfer them throughout the hospital without lifting or straining. Other SPH equipment at Faulkner includes ceiling lifts, slide boards and “sit-to-stand” devices.

“Proper, ergonomic equipment will not only benefit caregivers,” Rec said. “In addition to the decrease in injury to the nurses and other bed side staff, obtaining these tools has also increased early mobility for patients – providing them with a shorter healing time and decreased hospital stays. This in turn can provide additional cost savings to the health care system.”


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Founded in 1903, the Massachusetts Nurses Association is the largest union of registered nurses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Its 23,000 members advance the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Legislature and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.