7 Tips Nurses Should Know About Safe Patient Handling

Sara Lundwall Swenson, MS, APRN, ACNPC-AG, PCCN


Am Nurs Journal. 2020;15(5) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


Nursing is a demanding job, but it shouldn't demand injury to the nurse, especially when injury can be prevented. Far too many nurses suffer musculoskeletal injuries (such as back and shoulder muscle strain or vertebral disc herniation) as a result of routine work duties, despite many strategies available to reduce these injuries. Nurses typically experience injuries caused by overexertion, excessive physical effort, or repetitive motion. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Samaei and colleagues, as many as three-quarters of nurses have experienced back injury and pain from working with patients, and most of those injuries were recent (occurring in the previous year). This rate of musculoskeletal injury is among the highest of all industries and professions in the United States.

Government and healthcare provider associations are paying increasing attention to nurses' musculoskeletal injuries related to handling patients (lifting, repositioning, ambulating), but successful policies and procedures require nurse input. The American Nurses Association (ANA) recognizes the value of nurse participation in planning policies and programs, and its Safe Patient Handling and Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards recommends nurse input and feedback. Successful safe patient handling programs use engineering, behavioral, and/or administrative interventions; however, to be effective, all of these programs require nurse involvement not only for adherence but also for self-advocacy.