Ergonomics and Safe Patient Handling

On this page you will find information and resources to key ergonomics-related areas of interest in health care:  General ergonomics principles and issues, safe patient handling, design of electronic medical records and computer workstations, and general design of patient care areas.

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is an applied science that studies the relationship between people and their working environment. Ergonomics or Human Factors  is 'fitting' job demands to match the workers' physical and mental capabilities to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and human error and to improve worker comfort and enhance system performance.

Safe Patient Handling

Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) such as back strains and damage to spinal discs in nurses and other health care workers persist as the leading and most costly occupational health problem in the U.S.

The primary cause of these injuries is the result of repeated manual lifting, transferring, and repositioning of patients and residents. The cumulative weight a nurse or health care worker may have to lift (patient lifts or transfers) within an 8-hour shift is equivalent to 1.8 tons (that is the equivalent of a Subaru Forrester with a 600 lb passenger load)!

In fact, research by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) demonstrates that the safe lift limit for cumulative manual handling of patients or residents is only 35lbs. Research also shows that repeated manual patient or resident lifting can cause cumulative microfractures of the lower spine that lead to disc damage and permanent disabling injury.

It is well documented that multifaceted, participatory Safe Patient Handling (SPH) programs reduce injuries from lifting and moving patients and residents. Effective programs include active involvement of direct care nurses, and other health care workers, visible administrative support, assessment of patient handling needs, appropriate lifting and moving equipment, and "no manual lifting” policies.

Click on a topic below to see relevant resources

Healthy Computing and Usability of Electronic Medical Records

As the use of EMRs increases in the US nurses spend more time using computer technology in their practice.

This section will provide you information about the following information

Health Care Facilities Design

In a recently released white paper titled ‘Health Care at the Crossroads: Guiding Principles for the Development of the Hospital of the Future’, the Joint Commission (TJC) stated that hospital design is one of five major issues that must be addressed so that hospitals can enhance health care for all patients.

Numerous studies are cited in the paper which contains hospital design characteristics that improve patient safety and health care outcomes, and provide a supportive environment for hospital staff. Yet, most new hospitals are not being built "safe by design”. This is also the experience of many nurses and from direct observation of a number of acute care facilities in ONA in Oregon.

In this section you will find links to resources and information about designing health care facilities to ‘fit’ the patient, their family and the staff.