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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Gives Veterans a Lift

November 5, 2004

Houston VA Gives Veterans a Lift

New ceiling-mounted patient lifts reduce staff injuries, advance patient care, and improve everyone's morale.

Released: 2004/11/05

Legs For Life
Spinal Cord Injury Unit staff nurses Reginald Velasquez, LVN and Veleka Hill, LVN use the new patient lift system to transfer veteran Fred Johnson to his wheelchair. "The new lifts have been a great help, not only to us, the nurses, but also to the therapists and the patients. It's great how easy it is to now lift a patient without worrying about the bulkiness and instability of the old system. Nurses are now more able to do more of the lift transfer themselves without the need for help. I can honestly say the lifts in each room and each patient assigned their own slings, have made a big difference in job satisfaction and staff morale on this unit," said Velasquez.
photo by: Bobbi Gruner, MEDVAMC Public Affairs Officer

HOUSTON - The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) recently completed installation of ceiling-mounted patient lifts for 40 beds on its Spinal Cord Injury Unit and 127 beds on its Transitional Care Center. In addition, one was installed to assist in the Urodynamic Lab. The MEDVAMC has taken this action in response to the fact that nursing is the riskiest occupation for back injuries. According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses, nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants top the list of occupations most associated with work-related musculoskeletal disorders.

There are two main risk factors for back injury among nurses: lifting or transferring patients, and repositioning patients. The Spinal Cord Injury Unit provides medical care for veterans with spinal cord injury or dysfunction, while the Transitional Care Center cares for veterans who need prolonged nursing care, rehabilitation, or pressure sore care before going home, to a nursing home, or to an assisted-living environment.

During a typical shift on average, a MEDVAMC staff nurse will lift 20 patients into bed, and transfer 10 patients from bed to a chair. Patients typically weight in excess of 100 pounds, a load well above the weight that would be considered 'safe' for industrial workers for this frequency of lifting. Each of the recently installed patient lifts handles up to 550 pounds and can be upgraded to handle up to 1,100 pounds by adding another motor to the existing rail.

The new lift system allows nurses to easily turn a patient, transfer patients to and from their bed to a chair, wheelchair, or stretcher. In the bathroom, the system is used to securely support the patient during bathing. The overhead lift system is fast becoming a favorite of the patients for its comfort and feeling of gliding to their destination.

On the staff side, patient lifts reduce the physical demands for the nursing staff. Because of the sling support from above, it is much easier for nurses to negotiate around furniture and equipment in the room. In addition, there is never a requirement to make a bed while the patient is still in it.

"The new lifts have been a great help, not only to us, the nurses, but also to the therapists and the patients. It's great how easy it is to now lift a patient without worrying about the bulkiness and instability of the old system. Nurses are now more able to do more of the lift transfer themselves without the need for help. I can honestly say the lifts in each room and each patient assigned their own slings, have made a big difference in job satisfaction and staff morale on this unit," said Reginald Velasquez, LVN, Spinal Cord Injury Unit staff nurse.

The MEDVAMC plans to install patient lift systems in the Spinal Cord Injury Outpatient Clinic, Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Nursing Unit 4D, Radiology, and the Primary Care Clinics in the near future.

Point of Contact: VHAHOU Public Affairs

2004/11/05