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Running head: POLICY BRIEF

Policy Brief: Can Your Facility Afford Not To Utilize Lift Teams
Aaron Phillips
Ferris State University

POLICY BRIEF

Can Your Facility Your Facility Afford Not To Utilize Lift Teams?

Executive Summary
Despite health care administrative efforts to decrease back related injuries among health
care staff nurses suffer more back related injuries than any other occupation in the United States.
Back related injuries costs the health care industry over $20 billion dollars annually (CDC, n.d.).
Studies have shown facilities that use lift teams save $10 dollars for every dollar spent on lifting,
transferring, and repositioning equipment (Gallagher, Charney, & McGinley, 2010).

The

physical demand placed on nursing staff not only causes back pain, it causes decreased staff
morale, nursing turnover, and time away from work. Health care organizations cannot afford to
continue to ignore current research that shows the positive outcomes of lift teams. Health care
organizations need to strategically plan for the implementation of lift teams into their
organization.

Background & Context


The problem of lifting patients is increasing with the current trend of the obesity
epidemic in the United States. In the year 2000, 11,000 nurses reported lost time work injuries
related to lifting patients (CDC, n.d.). Facilities that ignore job safety related to back care puts
their staff at risk for injury. These consequences dont just affect the injured; it affects your coworker and the facility. Many times the worker is unable to return to work due to chronic pain
which leads to high nursing turnover (Pompei, Lipscomb, Schoenfisch, & Dement, 2009). Back
pain was identified in 12% of nurses for the reason they would leave nursing or change jobs
(Kutash, Short, Shea, & Martinez, 2009).

POLICY BRIEF

Lifting, transferring, and repositioning patients are the most common cause of back
injury. Research shows organizational obstacles to safe patient handling include lack of access
to lift equipment, time constraints to perform tasks, and lack of personnel (Gallagher et al.,
2010). Despite current safe lifting practices and statistics on cost and injury, many facilities do
not supply adequate lifting equipment, training, or staffing to allow for safe patient handling.
Higher patient ratios and higher acuity patients have put nursing at greater risks for back related
injury. The culture of health care and how they address safe patient handling need to change.

Description & Analysis of Outcomes


The lift team model was first studied in 1991 in to address the growing concerns of safe
patient handling (Gallagher et al., 2010). This study showed the relationship of decreased injury,
lost work days, and workers compensation with the implementation of lift teams. Many peerreviewed studies since then have shown the efficacy in economic and humanistic cost savings
related to lift teams. According to Kutash (2009), studies have shown lift teams decrease RN
patient handling injuries by 82%, a 92% reduction in workers compensation, and a 91%
reduction in lost work days. Stanford University Medical Center reported a net savings of over
$2,000,000 dollars on their initial investment of just over $800,000 dollars over a 5 year period
(Gallagher et al., 2010). It is difficult to ignore the decreased staff injury statistics and financial
gains of implementing lift teams within the hospital setting.
Lift teams do not only prevent back injuries and save facilities the cost of these injuries, it
increases staff satisfaction.

Nurses that work at facilities with lift teams have higher job

satisfactory ratings and increase morale (Gallagher et al., 2010). This is directly to decrease staff
turnover and burnout. A 600 bed facility with a 20% staff turnover ratethe current average

POLICY BRIEF

with the average salary of $46,000 dollarswill spend $5,520,000 annually in replacing staff
(Kutash et al., 2009). Lift teams directly reflect a decrease in staff turnover due to higher staff
satisfaction.

Recommendations
One of the biggest obstacles facilities face is the initial cost of implementing a lift team.
Facilities must purchase necessary equipment such as ceiling lifts, floor lifts, and transfer devices
for patient care areas. The facility must make ergonomically adaptations that allow use of their
new equipment.

Another key factor in the implementing lift teams is training staff.

Commitment of staff and management is essential in the implementation process of lift teams.
Without a firm commitment to change success of the lift team will be delayed (Kutash et al.,
2009). Studies have shown a 10 to 1 savings when implementing lift teams at their institution
according to Kutash (2009).
Eleven states- California, Illinois, Hawaii, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio,
Rhode Island, Texas, and Washington, have enacted safe patient handling legislation (CDC,
n.d.). Many organizations have proven these studies showing the decrease in employee injuries,
lost days of work, decline in bed sores, and overall employee satisfaction.

Health care

organizations can no longer afford to ignore the data showing the benefits of patient lift teams in
the hospital setting. Current trends in health care reform and the increasing obesity epidemic rate
are only going to increase staff related back injuries among health care workers, decrease patient
outcomes, and the increase cost of health care.

POLICY BRIEF

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References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (n.d.). Preventing Back Injuries in Health Care
Settings. Retrieved from September 23, 2014 from http://blogs.cdc.gov/niosh-scienceblog/2008/09/22/lifting/
Gallagher, S., Charney, W. & McGinley, L. (2010). Clinical Nursing Education Series: Rethinking
LiftTeams. Retrieved from bariatrictimes.com/clinical-nursing-educationseries.
Kutash, M., Short, M., Shea, J., & Martinez, M. (2009). The lift teams importance to a successful safe
patient handling program. JONA: The Journal of Nursing Administration,39 (4), 170-175. doi:
10.1097/NNA.0b013e31819c9cfd
Pompeii, L., Lipscomb, L., Schoenfisch, A., & Dement, J. (2009). Muscoloskeletal injuries resulting from
patient handling tasks among hospital workers. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 52(7),
571-578. doi:10.1002/ajim.20704