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Introduction to safe patient handling: A paradigm shift in the way therapists handle and move patients

Introduction to safe patient handling: A paradigm shift in the way therapists handle and move patients
Lenore Frost, PhD, OTR/L, CHT
February 3, 2014

This text based course is a transcript of the live webinar titled, "Introduction to safe patient handling: A paradigm shift in the way therapists handle and move patients", presented by Lenore Frost, Ph.D., OTR/L, CHT.

>> Dr. Lenore Frost:  I am very excited that you are joining me today.  It tells me that occupational therapists are looking at safe patient handling. That is good as we need to protect ourselves and our patients, but also, it is a potential area for practice.  I have 30 years plus experience as an occupational therapist and manual patient handling is what I practiced for the majority of my career.  


After the hour, I hope that you will have knowledge of the historical perspective of patient handling.  I will give you an outline of our history and future on this topic.  I will also talk about why, as occupational therapists, it is important that we look at this issue. I will talk about injury rates among occupational therapists. We will look at evidence related to safe manual patient handling.  Then I will discuss some different types of patient handling equipment. Lastly I will talk about some barriers that you may experience when trying to implement or begin a safe patient handling program. 

Manual Patient Handling



Figure 1. This slide shows two types of manual patient handling.

Manual patient handling refers to lifting, transferring, repositioning, and moving patients without the use of lift equipment or aids.  As you can see in the left picture in Figure. 1, the therapist is performing range of motion on the lower extremity which is considered manual patient handling.  We put our hands on the person and we move them with our force.  In the picture on the right, you see that this is a traditional manual handling transfer.  This is what the majority of therapists are still doing. 

I did a study and looked at what educators in OT programs were teaching related to patient handling.  Were they primarily teaching manual patient handling?  Were they teaching any component of safe patient handling?  What I found was that 78% of all programs continue to teach manual patient handling as the standard of practice.  They are teaching a good amount of safe patient handling, but manual patient handling is still the rule of thumb that we are using.


lenore frost

Lenore Frost, PhD, OTR/L, CHT

Dr. Lenore Frost, PhD, OTR/L, CHT is clinical assistant professor at Sacred Heart University in the Department of Occupational Therapy and Health Sciences. She is an occupational therapist with over 30 years experience in upper quadrant disorders and adult rehabilitation. Dr. Frost’s primary research agenda investigates the integration of SPH curriculum in occupational, physical, and nursing academic programs.

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