Safe Patient Handling in the Psychiatric Care Environment

Safe Patient Handling in the Psychiatric Care Environment Mamie Williams, Director of Safe Patient Handling in the department of Nursing Education discusses Safe Patient Handing and how to protect healthcare workers in the Psychiatric Hospital.

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Stephanie Townsend: Welcome to this edition of the Vanderbilt University Health and Wellness Wellcast. I am Stephanie Townsend with Vanderbilt Occupational Health. We are here today to speak with Mamie Williams, Director of Safe Patient Handling in the Department of Nurse Education. Thank you for speaking with us today, Mamie. I wanted to talk with you today on Safe Patient Handling and just go over some of the key points in how it is incorporated here at Vanderbilt. Can you tell me what is Safe Patient Handling and how does Vanderbilt use it here? Mamie Williams: Safe Patient Handling is a program at Vanderbilt put in place to ensure the safety of caregivers when they move and mobilize patients and to kind of give just a brief history, nurses in particular. I am a nurse myself. We are taught in school how to move patients and what is taught is proper body mechanics as the technique to use to move patients, but evidence and research has shown that that is really an ineffective method. What needs to happen is there needs to be a program designed around education, equipment, and policies and procedures which work to ensure caregivers when they are moving and mobilizing patients, something they do throughout the day, they can do that safely. A lot of organizations, OSHA, the American Nurses Association in particular have been looking at the right number of injuries amongst bedside caregivers and found it to be extremely high more so than any other profession, and so from there, they have recently gotten on board and said health care institutions, hospitals in particular, need to have programs, Safe Patient Handling Programs, which prevent caregivers from being injured. Here at Vanderbilt, you will ask how it is incorporated here. Our program really predates a lot of those initiatives from both OSHA and ANA. In 2005 and 2006, Occupational Health implemented a Safe Patient Handling Program to really safeguard our bedside caregivers and prevent them from being injured, and that was simply because they noted a high number of injuries among those caregivers. Stephanie Townsend: Here at Vanderbilt, what are some of the special considerations that are taken into place and used here for our caregiver safety, especially at the psychiatric hospital? Mamie Williams: As you mentioned, we do have at Vanderbilt a very diverse patient population. So, we have both inpatients, outpatients, we have psych, children, and all those different patient populations really just like as we care for them and as we think about what we are going to treat them with is different, also the needs around patient handling are different. So, all caregivers need to be safe in how they move patients, but in particular for a psych hospital, psych patients historically were more ambulatory. There was a limited need for caregivers to move and mobilize them, but now, we have a number of both geriatric and psych patients with other medical comorbidities that cause us to need to be able to move and mobilize them as well. So, in our psych world here at Vanderbilt, it is a recent phenomenon where we have started to need to use patient handling equipment with the psych population and some of the special considerations with that. These patients may or may not being with it. There could be more so combative or they could have a fear of the piece of equipment to a greater extent than say just the general population patient. So, those were some of the special considerations and some of the things we had to think about when we implemented the patient handling program in the psych hospital. Stephanie Townsend: This sounds like we have such a great amount of obstacles to overcome in implementing that. With the existing safe patient handling procedures, how has Vanderbilt University Medical Center helped the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital in that aspect? Mamie Williams: The biggest thing is that the Safe Patient Handling Policy applies to the psych hospital as well. So, the equipment and technologies and training that are available throughout the hospital, throughout the Vanderbilt entity can also be applied to the psych hospital, so that is exactly what we did. The policy was already in place. We just equipped them with the equipment that they needed, the slippery sheets for all their repositioning and the Maxi Move for patients who needed to get up off their beds and their beds are a lot lower and have a special considerations because of some of patients than the main hospital beds. So, using the Maxi Move with those folks to get them up, just make sure that the caregivers are safe. So, just reeducate the nurse staff about what is available and kind of helping them to really fully understand that these pieces of equipment can be used with your patient population and will help to keep you safe as well was one of the biggest things to do for them. Stephanie Townsend: Do you see that there is a greater need to have more education for our staff or to help with the implementation of our safe patient handling? Mamie Williams: Education is always a balancing act, so there is the training that is needed. Certainly, when you first come in, you need to be introduced to it. You need to be introduced to the program. Then, whether on a yearly basis or every 2-year basis, there needs to be a reintroduction. I think it depends on the unit, how often they use the equipment, and whether their educator is able to review with them different things. So, certainly, at the psych hospital, they have a program where on a yearly basis they kind of do things that they do not use as frequently, and the Safe Patient Handling Program and equipment is a part of that, so I go over and work with them on training staff on their equipment. Stephanie Townsend: Well, thank you so much Mamie for going over that information. Mamie Williams: Sure, you are welcome. Thank you. Stephanie Townsend: Thanks for listening. Please feel free to leave us any comments on this Wellcast on the form at the bottom of this page. If you have a story suggestion, please email it to us at or you can use the "Contact Us" page on our website at -- end of recording  --