ANA Launches 'Handle with Care' Ergonomics Campaign (9/17/03)

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 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 17, 2003

CONTACT:
Mary McNamara, 301-628-5198
Mary Stewart, 301-628-5038

Multi-pronged effort aimed at preventing work-related musculoskeletal disorders through greater use of assistive equipment and patient-handling devices

Washington, DC -- Recognizing that more than a third of all nursing personnel are affected by back-related injuries, the American Nurses Association (ANA) today unveiled a proactive, multi-faceted campaign aimed at promoting safe patient handling and preventing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) among nurses.

Titled "Handle with Care," the campaign will involve collaboration with ANA-related groups, other nursing and specialty organizations, the research and academic community and health care systems in a united effort to prevent back and other musculoskeletal injuries through greater education and training, and increased use of assistive equipment and patient-handling devices. The campaign also seeks to reshape nursing education, and federal and state ergonomics policy by highlighting the ways in which technology-oriented, safe-patient-handling techniques benefit patients and the nursing workforce.

"Studies of back-related workers compensation claims reveal that nursing personnel have the highest claim rates of any occupation or industry," noted ANA President Barbara A. Blakeney, MS, APRN,BC, ANP. "In addition, other estimates report that 12 percent of nurses leave the profession annually as a result of back injuries, and more than 52 percent complain of chronic back pain. These alarming statistics tell us two things - that poor ergonomics hurts nurses, who are choosing to leave the profession rather than suffer unnecessarily, and that poor ergonomics hurts patients, whose safe nursing care is already threatened by the nation's escalating nursing shortage. That is why ANA has launched the Handle with Care campaign - to reverse these alarming trends and to send a message to policy makers that this issue needs to be addressed immediately."

In addition to launching the campaign, ANA has also been actively lobbying Congress and working through the regulatory process to establish stronger ergonomics protections for nurses. The ANA testified repeatedly before the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) throughout the 1990s on the need for an ergonomics standard. This standard was promulgated in 2000 but repealed the following year by Congress, which ordered OSHA to cease all work related to the standard. ANA continued pressing policy and lawmakers to address ergonomics hazards, and earlier this year, OSHA released nursing home guidelines for preventing MSDs.

"While it is encouraging that the federal guidelines explicitly recommend elimination of manual lifting, they are not mandated and are not enforceable," Blakeney said. "We have to do better than that. What we need is another strong federal ergonomics mandate, and the Handle with Care campaign will help in achieving this goal."

Using the ANA position statement, Elimination of Manual Patient Handling to Prevent Work-Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (see below) as a foundation, the Handle with Care campaign seeks to educate nurses regarding advances in science and technology that support ANA's goal of securing a nationwide "no-lifting" policy. Among the campaign's chief goals are developing safe workplaces in acute- and long-term-care settings through safe patient-handling techniques and patient lift devices; providing nurses with the information they need to recognize and prevent the risk of back injuries and MSDs; and decreasing health care industry costs by reducing nurse injuries and compensation claims.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing personnel are among the highest at risk for MSDs, with nursing aides, orderlies and attendants ranking first (ahead of truck drivers and laborers) and RNs sixth in a list of at-risk occupations for strains and sprains.

"These statistics provide clear, convincing evidence of the urgent need to implement lifting, transfer and other safe-handling devices as well as educational strategies aimed at preventing MSDs," said Blakeney. "The goal of this campaign is to establish a nationwide 'no-lifting' policy, similar to policies that are already in place in the United Kingdom, Australia and other industrialized nations," she added.

"In addition, the campaign aims to stem the nation's growing nursing shortage by reducing the number of nurses who are leaving the field because of unsafe lifting practices and resulting back pain and other sometimes disabling injuries," said Blakeney.

The Handle with Care campaign includes the following components:

  • Holding a Safe Patient Handling Conference, to be co-sponsored by ANA with the Tampa Veterans' Health Administration Patient Safety Center of Inquiry and the University of South Florida, March 2-5, 2004.
  • Launching an education campaign involving professional nurses, schools of nursing, health care facilities and the health care industry. This campaign will be aimed in part at exposing the fallacy of "proper" body mechanics, which have been widely taught in nursing schools yet do not translate well to nursing practice.
  • Developing support mechanisms and networks for injured nurses.
  • Forming international partnerships with the International Council of Nurses and the United Kingdom's Royal College of Nursing.

In addition, ANA has partnered with Audrey Nelson, PhD, RN, FAAN, director of the Tampa Veterans' Health Administration Patient Safety Center of Inquiry, in implementing the goals of the campaign. Nelson is a leading nurse researcher in developing and incorporating evidence-based interventions that reduce the risk of occupational injury secondary to patient handling through the use of technology and equipment.

"ANA is excited about the launch of the Handle with Care Campaign, and we look forward to working with the nursing community, educators, legislators and the public in instituting these much-needed ergonomics changes and preventing unnecessary injuries among the nation's hard-working nurses," said Blakeney.

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ANA is the only full-service professional organization representing the nation's 2.7 million Registered Nurses through its 54 constituent associations. ANA advances the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting the economic and general welfare of nurses in the workplace, projecting a positive and realistic view of nursing, and by lobbying the Congress and regulatory agencies on health care issues affecting nurses and the public.

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