Innovative team helps decrease caregiver injuries with hands-on training

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Utah Valley caregivers participate in the hospital’s Safe Patient Handling Course, which was developed to help reduce caregivers injuries.

Hospital patients often require help moving around, which increases the chance for caregiver injuries. That risk decreases when caregivers understand safe patient handling techniques. A team at Utah Valley Hospital has implemented a unique caregiver training program that has greatly reduced injuries related to patient handling.

Three years ago, inpatient rehab manager Ammon Coray and therapy managers Tyler Huish and Keith Coon partnered with nurse manager Courtney Cherrington, RN, to create specialized training for their caregivers who often help patients with significant mobility issues. The goal was to reduce caregiver injuries. Their collaboration was so successful that other managers started requesting similar training for their teams. Efforts grew from there.

The hospital’s Safe Patient Handling Team decided to implement a formal Safe Patient Handling Course, starting in the fall 2019. The course was provided to each department and then to every new hire. It focuses on body mechanics and patient handling education with an emphasis on hands-on equipment and patient handling techniques. 

“The class is more about what not to do,” says Ammon, who leads the Safe Patient Handling Team.

“You think when you lift a patient, then you should do all the work. But, it’s ok to ask the patient if they can slide over or stand up.”

Participants in the class also have time to get more comfortable with the hospital’s lift equipment. Caregivers had reported they didn’t feel familiar with the equipment and, consequently, were reluctant to use it. The course is taught by leaders in the therapy and nursing departments. Course materials are adapted to the needs of specific departments to enhance applicability and retention.

“Tyler and Keith lead out with the classes and developed the curriculum,” Ammon says. “It’s a fun and active class that gets people involved. We’ve been able to keep this going even through the pandemic and the results are showing.”

Since the implementation of the Safe Patient Handling Course, Utah Valley has had a consistent reduction in patient handling injuries over the past four years as measured in their caregiver injury rates:

  • 2.04 in 2018
  • 1.75 in 2019
  • 1.41 in 2020
  • 0.74 in 2021

That’s a 64% reduction in injuries between 2018 and 2021. And the trend is continuing in 2022 with only seven safe patient handling injuries year-to-date. Ammon and Tyler will also share this good news when they present at the American Medical Rehabilitation Providers Association’s Educational Conference and Expo in October.

“Creating and implementing this course has been a key element of improving the safety culture at Utah Valley,” says Karen Dominguez, operations officer at Utah Valley Hospital. “We’re lucky to have Ammon, Tyler, and Keith leading the efforts.”

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