Return to 2001 Abstacts List

*184. Reducing Lower Back Injuries in VAMC Nursing Personnel

BA Caska, Stratton VAMC; RE Patnode, VISN 3; D Clickner, Bath VAMC

Objectives: During this investigation we examined the effects of nurse staffed lift teams on unit-wide rates of lower back and sprain/strain injuries, associated disability and costs. Our objective was to determine whether it would be beneficial for VAMCs to implement teams of nurses specialized in patient transfer. We hypothesized that rates of injuries,associated costs and disability would decrease with the use of lift teams. Further, we expected that nurse staff working as lift members would be able to perform a high number of patienttransfers without incident of injury.

Methods: Study procedures took place at 4 VAMCs. Twenty nursing home and medical care units participated. Treatment units received access to a nurse staffed lift team.Control units received lifting equipment equivalent to that used by the lift team. Outcome data were collecte from control and treatment units, including numbers of sprain/strain injuries incurred during transfer, associated costs and lost work hours. Measurment took place over a 12 month baseline period and an intervention period ranging from 2 to 12 months.

Results: No injuries occurred at 3 of 4 facilities while lift teams were available. At the single facility where injuries were observed, they occurred only on dates when the team was not performing transfers. Injury costs decreased from baseline on control units at 3 facilities, while decreasing or remaining at zero on treatment units. The lift team intervention has stronger effects on injuries as the number of daily transfers performed increased. No nurses suffered sprain/strain injuries while performing lift team duties.

Conclusions: It can be beneficial to implement nurse staffed lift teams. The extent to which lift teams reduce injuries, associated costs and disability depends on the extent to which teams are used. Low staffing levels threaten lift team availability and limit the positive effects of this intervention.

Impact: Our results suggest that lift teams may prevent transfer-related injuries among nurse staff on as many as 3 units within a VAMC. Given this, these findings have important implications for the health of the VA nurse staff work force, and for the areas of safety, occupational health and management.