Risk management is an important aspect in health care systems. It is important for all health care systems to ensure that risk is managed properly for both patients and employees. When working in a health care system, the employees also face risks associated with their employment. One risk for employees is physical injury that results from moving patients. Often, these injuries are back injuries. This risk must be managed to reduce the burden to both the employee and the health care system.
As a way to reduce the incidence of back injuries, a policy at one hospital facility offers a comprehensive manual on safe patient lifting. This manual works to reduce injuries to the patients but also to the employees. The policy depends upon management to establishing training programs for employees with regards to this program. It also requires management to ensure that the program is followed by all employees. The policy is implemented in a systematic format. There are multiple components that have been identified with regards to safe patient lifting. Each component then has identified specific actions associated with it. Furthermore, there is a series of audit questions attached to each component. In this manner, individuals and groups throughout the hospital can ask how the program can be improved. The audit questions also ensure that all steps and actions have been followed for each component.
The policy impacts managers in a number of ways. Firstly, it is the management’s job to ensure that the program is followed, as well as ensuring that all employees are properly trained in the program. If an employee is not properly trained in the program and then is injured while moving a patient, the management needs to answer for this lapse in the program. However, if the employee has been properly trained in the program and is injured while not using it, the employee needs to be disciplined by the management for this deviation from acceptable policy and protocol.
This program and policy actually demands a significant amount of work from risk management. The program requires that risk management determine how most of the injuries occur, analyze the patterns associated with the injuries, and develop appropriate safe lifting and handling techniques related to the patterns. Afterwards, they must decide upon the proper equipment and purchase it. They must ensure that all individuals are trained in the protocol and how to use the equipment. They must then collect data associated with the use of the equipment and any injuries that still do occur. After the analyses are completed, the managers must then fine-tune the program to correct any noted deficiencies in training or implementation (Minnesota Hospital Association, 2012, pp. 3-5).
There are several ways that a manager can ensure that this policy is being used. In the first way, a manager can quietly observe his or her staff at work. A good manager is an observant manager. While some employees may feel threatened by the presence of a manager, this can be averted. If a manager is approachable, professional and appears regularly, this may help the situation. Too often at work places, managers only appear when there is a problem; it is therefore natural for an employee to worry when a manager arrives. However, if the manager appears to deliver good news and also praise to the employees, this can defuse this possible problem. Secondly, the managers can have anonymous surveys done about this issue. If a person can anonymously share why he or she does or does not follow a policy, the manager has the information needed to fine-tune the program. This would ensure a higher level of compliance in the individuals.
This particular area can have a tremendous level of financial savings for a health care system. It is true that the equipment in safe lifting programs is often expensive. However, the costs associated with a back injury in an employee are tremendous. Back injuries are one of the most common types of injury to an employee. The employee will likely miss time from work and may require extensive treatment. Many individuals then suffer from back pain for years after the initial injury. As a result, the costs of back injuries and back pain are enormous, not only for the health care system, but also for society as a whole.
Health care workers are at significant risk for back injuries. They actually suffer more musculoskeletal disorders than employees in construction. This results in significant workers compensation costs for the employee. The average cost associated with a back injury is $10,668. The incidence of back injuries in health care workers is 249 injuries per 10,000 workers. The average incidence for all professions combined is 34 per 10,000. Obviously, this is an area with a significant risk for health care systems. The cost savings that can be obtained by reducing these injuries are massive. For this reason, risk managers should develop similar programs and ensure that they are followed (University of Minnesota, 2012).
Risk management ensures not only the safety of the patients, but also the safety of the employees. Employee injuries result in significant losses to a health care system. They also create unnecessary pain and suffering for the employee. Furthermore, the loss of employees results in a lower level of care available for the patients. As such, managers must devise a risk management policy to protect the employees. One important area that can always use improvement is in the area of patient lifting. Patient lifting may lead to back injuries, which have a tremendous cost per case. A policy can therefore result in the savings associated with these injuries.
- Minnesota Hospital Association. (2012). Call to action: road map to a comprehensive safe patient handling system. Retrieved from: http://www.mnhospitals.org/Portals/0/Documents/ptsafety/lift/safe-lift-roadmap.pdf
- University of Minnesota. (2012, April). Back injuries in nursing. Retrieved from: http://blog.lib.umn.edu/huew0001/backinjuriesinnursing/