Patients getting heavier? 3 Ways to protect your health

nurse-knightA recent report shows that our patients are getting heavier, and this simple fact means that nurses are experiencing more health problems.  Lifting, moving, and repositioning large patients can take a toll on experienced and new nurses alike.

Fortunately, you can take a few steps to ensure that you don’t suffer injury from this patient population.

No nurse wants to refuse a patient, and our compassion isn’t in question.

Just like patients with antibiotic resistant medications, when patients tip the scales, nurses need to take care of themselves.

Back Fundamentals

We’re all taught back fundamentals in orientation and in nursing school.  Although they face us every single day, it is far too easy to just lift without thinking.

You need to keep a few points in mind.  First, always lock the back, and never let any arch occur in the lower back, either forward or backward.

Second, lift with your knees.  Squat down the best you can around a weight and use the power in your thighs and buttocks to move large patients around.

By following these fundamentals every single time you engage any patient, you will form the habit of good back hygiene and avoid musculoskeletal injury.

Assistive Equipment

When I worked as a nurse, I hated the lift machines.  They took too long to set up, moved slowly when in operation, and just seemed like a waste of time.

No, people, those machines are what’s going to save you when you go to move patients over 150 pounds.  Everyone is busy, but if you let your stress get in the way of making good decisions, your physical health will suffer.

This doesn’t just mean to use the lift machines.  It also means to use sliding boards instead of simply using a draw sheet.

Many new products have come out that help to lift fallen patients safely off the floor using air pressure.  The point is that you have tools at your disposal to help protect you from the dangers of obese patients, and you have to use them.

Team Work

Never, ever, ever try to lift or move a patient by yourself.  I don’t care how frail that 90 pound little old lady looks.

Even a patient of that size is far too much to move by yourself.  For most lifts and transfers, you should have four people in the room, in addition to assistive equipment.

I used to clean and jerk some older folks myself, when I worked at the nursing home.  I would never do that again, because my back complains from those times I didn’t think I needed help.

These suggestions may seem like common sense, but you would be surprised how many nurses don’t use them.  As professionals, we have to recognize when a patient is putting us in harm’s way.

No one wins any Iron Nurse awards for moving any patient on their own, and management tends to come down hard on nurses who don’t follow these rules.

In short, take care of your back, phone a friend, and use the thousands of dollars’ worth of equipment your facility has on site for your protection.

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