From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Safe Patient Handling and Movement Conference

Ergonomic patient handling was the focus of the second annual Safe Patient Handling and Movement Conference held this January in Clearwater, Florida. The University of South Florida and the Department of Veterans Affairs, James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital co-sponsored this three-day event which featured the most prominent researchers and speakers in the field of ergonomics and patient handling.

A mixture of research presentations, panel discussions, and practical experiences enhanced the communication of the latest information to the 200 attendees. Emphasis was on best practices in reducing caregiver risk, technological solutions, performing ergonomic assessments of patient care environments, using patient assessments and algorithms to promote safe patient handling and movement, and strategies for obtaining organizational support and the evaluation of safety initiatives.

Audrey Nelson, PhD, RN, FAAN, the director of the VISN 8 Patient Safety Center of Inquiry opened and adjourned the conference, as well as presenting “High Risk Tasks in Nursing and Use of Individual Patient Assessment Protocol for Safe Patient Handling & Movement”, following with her work on “Algorithms to Standardize Tasks for Safe Patient Handling & Movement”. Dr. Nelson’s talk was supplemented with printed assessment forms and charts that may easily be used by staff to plan safe movements and transfers for their patients. This information is included in the “Patient Care Ergonomics Resource Guide: Safe Patient Handling and Movement”, distributed at the conference, which was developed by the Patient Safety Center of Inquiry, Veterans Health Administration and Department of Defense with the collaboration of experts from around the country. New and emerging technology, ergonomic workplace assessments, developing a no-lift policy and several other vital subjects are also covered in detail with practical applications.

Guy Fragala, PhD, PE, CSP presented “Case Studies of Effective Ergonomic Interventions in Healthcare” which showed hard numbers proving that ergonomic interventions do have a very positive impact on a facility’s bottom line. A cost-benefit analysis revealed a net savings of $825,505 over a five-year period.

William Charney, IH also spoke about the monetary benefits: “Capturing Costs and Benefits of Safe Patient Handling Interventions”, citing a recuperation time of equipment expenses as 12-15 months. He explained the appeal of Zero Lift programs, and the increasing momentum in this country to adopt Zero Lift policies in facilities and at the state level. Mr. Charney also introduced Anne Hudson, RN, who spoke about her personal experiences in patient care which lead to a debilitating back injury and her struggle with continuing her career.

Dr. Fragala and John Lloyd, PhD, MErgS, CPE presented: “New and Emerging Technology for Safe Patient Handling and Movement: A Resource Guide”. This guide describes the types of equipment available, how to evaluate and select equipment, and the settings in which the equipment is most appropriate. Dr. Lloyd, the Director of Technology Division and Laboratories at the Patient Safety Center of Inquiry, also gave a virtual tour of a biomechanics laboratory.

A new approach to preventing injury and improving staff buy-in, is BIRN Nurses: Back Injury Resource Nurses. Mary Matz, MSPH, IH and a panel described the program that incorporates a peer leader to promote a “Culture of Safety” to support clinicians in providing safe patient care and safe working environments.

Bernice Owen, PhD, RN received an award for “Lifetime Achievement for Research Related to Safe Patient Handling and Movement” which was presented to her by Dr. Nelson, Dr. Fragala and William Charney. Dr. Owen, who retired this month from her professorship at the University of Wisconsin, has researched the effects of patient handling for more than 30 years, and has seen her findings published and cited extensively. She expressed how gratifying it is to see the quality of research in the field of ergonomic patient handling and told of her experiences in trying to convince healthcare professionals that changes can be made to make nursing safe.

The University of South Florida and the Department of Veterans Affairs, James A. Haley Hospital are to be commended for providing a wealth and depth of information which may easily applied to improving worker and patient safety. Much of this information is available now, or will be available soon, on the VISN 8 Patient Safety Center of Inquiry website,

This article was contributed by Teri Jennings, MS PT,