New musculoskeletal policy helps keep staff safe

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Thanks to improvements being made to the Rouge Valley Health System musculoskeletal program, fewer staff members at the hospital’s two campuses are experiencing job-related injuries.

The most recent statistics show that musculoskeletal (MSK) injuries – typically injuries sustained in the hands, arms, shoulders, neck, back, legs or feet – have decreased by as much as twenty per cent in just one year. The severity of injuries that staff members suffer has also decreased.

“We’re really excited that the program developed for musculoskeletal injury prevention is having a positive impact on the health and well being of our staff. These results will contribute to a positive patient experience at Rouge Valley,” explains Kathy Gooding, vice president, human resources.

In 2010, preventing musculoskeletal injuries was identified as part of the hospital’s strategic plan. The development of a written musculoskeletal injury prevention policy, which at the time was not yet in place, helped to start this process. The development and implementation of the policy represented the hospital’s more robust focus on injury prevention.

“We have been better able to educate our staff on proper patient handling and how to use injury-preventing equipment, including patient lifts, slings and other assistive equipment,” explains Jeremy Holden, musculoskeletal injury prevention program (MIPP) specialist.

Preventing staff injuries has a trickle-down effect on staff productivity and even patient wait times. “When staff members need to take time off to recover from a work-related musculoskeletal injury, or need to go on modified duty, there are increased demands on the remaining staff,” explains Jeremy. “There are also increased demands on management and administrative staff who must replace them.”

Identifying risks

By conducting a statistical review based on two-year injury trending, exposure to musculoskeletal injury risk review, lack of resources in the areas with MSK injury risk exposure, Jeremy was able to identify high-risk work areas and groups across the hospital. In most hospitals, they are front-line staff members who physically move patients and as a result, often suffer from back and shoulder injuries.

This includes nurses and patient support workers involved in patient handling; and diagnostic imaging technicians who move patients from stretchers diagnostic machines such as CT scanners, MRIs, and X-Rays. He was also able to identify the high-risk activities that contribute to work-related injuries.

Based on recommendations made by Jeremy, a strategy on how to mitigate risk of injuries was then identified. Data analysis, area reviews and exposure to risk all played a role in creating the strategy. One part of the strategy was to purchase equipment for moving patients, including slings and patient lifts. This investment has made a big impact, explains Jeremy.

“Ergonomic funding has allowed us to provide resources to support those recommendations. Having easy-to-use equipment that will make a difference in helping to prevent injuries has made a difference to our staff. The feedback from our staff has been positive,” he adds.

Creating awareness around the importance of preventing musculoskeletal injuries is helping to drive the message home to staff. “The attitudes and mindset is also changing in terms of understanding that safety is everyone’s responsibility,” explains Jeremy.

Education has come in the form of improved orientation as well as in-service training sessions for front-line nursing and patient support staff, right in their units. In these sessions, staff members learn how to use equipment, including patient lifts and sliders used to move patients from their hospital beds onto stretchers or diagnostic equipment.

Lean has also played a key role in these improvements by creating a way to track and sustain these improvements. In the future, Rouge Valley will begin to develop an auditing process to help ensure that proper patient handling techniques are being practiced at all times.