Health care workers, such as nurses, nursing aides, orderlies, and attendants, who manually move patients, are consistently listed in the top professions for musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs) by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. These MSIs are typically caused by high-risk patient caregiving activities. In 2008, a safe patient handling (SPH) program was implemented in all 153 Veterans Administration Medical Centers (VAMCs) throughout the United States to reduce patient handling injuries.
The goal of the present study is to evaluate the effects associated with the national implementation of a comprehensive SPH program. The primary objectives of the research were to determine the effectiveness of the SPH program in improving direct care nursing outcomes and to provide a context for understanding variations in program results across sites over time. Secondary objectives of the present research were to evaluate the effectiveness of the program in reducing direct and indirect costs associated with patient handling, to explore the potential mediating and moderating mechanisms, and to identify unintended consequences of implementing the program.
This 3-year longitudinal study used mixed methods of data collection at 6- to 9-month intervals. The analyses will include data from surveys, administrative databases, individual and focus group interviews, and nonparticipant observations. For this study, a 3-tiered measurement plan was used. For Tier 1, the unit of analysis was the facility, the data source was the facility coordinator or administrative data, and all 153 VAMCs participated. For Tier 2, frontline caregivers and program peer leaders at 17 facilities each completed different surveys. For Tier 3, six facilities completed qualitative site visits, which included individual interviews, focus groups, and nonparticipant observations. Multiple regression models were proposed to test the effects of SPH components on nursing outcomes related to patient handling. Content analysis and constant comparative analysis were proposed for qualitative data analysis to understand the context of implementation and to triangulate quantitative data.
All three tiers of data for this study have been collected. We are now in the analyses and writing phase of the project, with the possibility for extraction of additional administrative data. The focus of this paper is to describe the SPH program, its evaluation study design, and its data collection procedures. This study evaluates the effects associated with the national implementation of a comprehensive SPH program that was implemented in all 153 VAMCs throughout the United States to reduce patient handling injuries.
To our knowledge, this is the largest evaluation of an SPH program in the United States. A major strength of this observational study design is that all VAMCs implemented the program and were included in Tier 1 of the study; therefore, population sampling bias is not a concern. Although the design lacks a comparison group for testing program effects, this longitudinal field study design allows for capturing program dose-response effects within a naturalistic context. Implementation of the VA-wide SPH program afforded the opportunity for rigorous evaluation in a naturalistic context. Findings will guide VA operations for policy and decision making about resources, and will be useful for health care, in general, outside of the VA, in implementation and impact of an SPH program.