4 Ways to Avoid Workplace Injuries at Long Term Care Facilities

The healthcare field is one that takes an emotional and physical toll on its employees but especially so in the long term care space. 

Nursing staff is required to transition patients from standing to sitting or even to roll patients over in order to prevent injuries like bedsores. But what is done to protect the staff at your facility from hurting themselves while providing care for others? 

Long term care facility staff are at risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) as a result of repeated resident handling. Examples of MSDs include:

  • Strains
  • Sprains
  • Low back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome

Read on to learn more about MSDs, their overall impact, and how LTC facilities can care for their people for better profitability and patient outcomes.

How do MSDs impact the workplace?

Caring for others is at the heart of employment in this profession — and employers who care for their staff’s physical health can help their retention rates and bottom lines as well. 

With OSHA listing MSDs as one of the most commonly cited reasons for lost or restricted work time, it’s easy to see how a small injury can snowball into bigger problems if not prevented and/or addressed quickly. Even if minor issues do not become worse, the time taken off to repeatedly handle symptoms or impact on work performance leads to loss of productivity and ultimately profitability.

What is a healthcare facility’s responsibility to address MSDs?

In the LTC space, OSHA places ergonomics and safe patient handling under the General Duty Clause (Section 5(a)(1)) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act which states that employers are only held responsible by OSHA to minimize the risk for MSDs through patient handling by putting in place ergonomic practices and controls. Ergonomics, in this sense, is the practice of fitting a job to a body.

The General Duty Clause states that employers are required to provide a work environment that is free of hazards recognized to either cause or be likely to cause death or serious physical injury. Due to this wording, OSHA can issue citations under this clause if they find that an employer has provided an unsafe workplace where no specific OSHA standard is applicable.

In order to help LTC employers make work environments more hospitable for its employees, OSHA released a revised version of their Guidelines for Nursing Homes in 2009 as a guide. Not following or implementing the guidelines is not a violation, evidence of a violation, or can be used as evidence of a violation of the General Duty Clause.

How LTC facilities can care for their employees

Given how serious MSDs are and how they can negatively impact a facility, priority must be placed on caring for the physical health of employees while on the job. Below, we’ve outlined four ways you can minimize the risk of injury to your staff while still providing great patient care.

Implement a “zero-lift” program

According to OSHA, manual lifting injuries can be reduced by up to 95% when lifting equipment is paired with a safe patient handling program. In general, manual lifting should be limited as much as possible. Ideally, a “zero-lift” program should be used where nursing staff are never to physically lift a patient with assistive devices or a helper. 

In order to make a “zero-lift” program a reality, facilities will need to invest in mechanical lifts and transfer devices like ceiling lifts or floor-based lifts to reduce any physical strain your staff may experience during patient transfers. This machinery takes much of the labor out of the equation for your staff while providing a safer experience for patients. 

Frequently train on proper lifting techniques

During nursing school, students are trained on proper lifting techniques, body mechanics, and how to correctly use assistive devices — but when’s the last time they had a refresher course or had someone evaluate their form? 

To ensure that your staff know the best way to lift patients with or without assistive devices, be sure to conduct frequent training on best practices to refresh their memory. As employees continue their career, new technologies or practices may be implemented so keeping up with this training can help you keep everyone abreast of best practices for better patient outcomes.

Invest in ergonomic equipment

Aside from lifting devices, other ergonomic equipment should be a high priority to invest in for facilities. Investing in these technologies will create better patient outcomes in the long run, improve the overall workplace environment, and reduce the number of lost or restricted hours from MSDs.

 As mentioned earlier, ergonomic in this context refers to fitting a job to a body so that everyone can perform at roughly the same level. In this sense, facilities could scope out introducing adjustable beds or chairs to its campus to make it easier for staff to assist patients with mobility issues. This is just one step closer to a safer workplace that cares for its employees.

Empower your patients with assistive devices

Finally, consider what tools your facility could install to empower your patients to take mobility in their own hands. Of course, not all patients have the same levels of mobility and an assisted approach will be necessary for some. 

For patients that are interested in maintaining some level of independence and have the physical wherewithal to do so, tools like grab bars and mobility aids reduce the opportunity for injury to occur. These small tools can go a long way in enhancing patient outcomes while relieving the physical burden that nursing places on its professionals.

Want to fill your open roles faster?

Healthcare retention is hard, but hiring might be even harder these days. To learn how you can fill your open roles faster by creating an interview process that engages candidates, download your copy of The Ultimate Interview Guide for Healthcare Facilities.



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