DeKALB – As the average hospital patient’s waistline has grown, so too have the number of injuries among health care workers across the country.
But at Kishwaukee Community Hospital, a May 2011 partnership with Diligent – an arm of Addison-based ArjoHuntleigh – has helped reverse that trend, reducing employee injuries by 95 percent over the past three years.
In addition to the increasing weight of the patient population, another factor is the average age of nurses, said Shelly Johnson, the hospital’s director of employee health.
Johnson said hospital employees can easily injure their backs or knees while moving patients from bed to bed or helping them up from a fall.
“We are the only industry that thinks 100 pounds is light,” she said.
More than 300 hospital employees have been trained to use new equipment and practices to reduce those injuries and improve patient comfort.
In 2009, 20 employees were hurt while handling patients. When Diligent employees began tracking injuries in July 2011 – after training and new practices had been implemented – the hospital recorded only one patient-handling injury within a year.
“Yes, I was expecting a significant reduction,” Johnson said. “But not 95 percent.”
Employees marked their accomplishment with a celebration Tuesday, where staff members demonstrated their new equipment and methods. Johnson said Kishwaukee Community Hospital is one of the first in Illinois to implement the program, and she had pushed for seven years to bring it there.
“Because I do employee health, I saw we had a lot of injuries,” Johnson said. “They caused a lot of human suffering that didn’t need to occur.”
She said the program has already paid for itself.
During a presentation, Johnson said 2007 figures showed the hospital spent $215,100 in injury costs in the form of lost time and medical bills. The hospital has spent $7,000 since the new program was implemented, saving about $208,000 in injury costs. The savings also made up for the $156,000 the hospital invested into new equipment and training.
Some of the new equipment included a HoverJack, which is a mat that lifts patients from the floor to hospital-bed height by inflating in about a minute. That saves hospital employees from having to lift patients from the floor to the bed.
Other new equipment included slide sheets to ease bed transfers, and a machine called a Maxi Move, which helps lift patients who are totally dependent on medical staff to lift and move them.
Dominique Kemph, an emergency room nurse, got a chance to use a new HoverMatt mattress that inflates to help move a patient from one bed to another Tuesday. Cheryl Moberg, clinical development coordinator for medical surgical units, volunteered to lay on the HoverMatt as certified nursing assistants and nurses, including Kemph, practiced sliding her onto a different bed.
“It was way easier,” Kemph said. “We used to use just the sheet [to move patients]. This will be very handy.”