St. Luke’s receives award for fewer workplace injuriesA nearly 35 percent reduction in workplace injuries since 2006 has earned St. Luke’s hospital recognition as a 2013 Best Practice Honoree by the American Psychological Association.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
A nearly 35 percent reduction in workplace injuries since 2006 has earned St. Luke’s hospital recognition as a 2013 Best Practice Honoree by the American Psychological Association.
St. Luke’s is one of nine entities to win the honor, which will be presented Saturday in Washington, D.C.
The reduction in injuries and the honor were achieved largely through focusing on the unglamorous task of moving patients from one place to another.
Moving patients from one bed to another, or from a bed to a chair, or from one position in the bed to another, is one of the things that makes nursing physically stressful, said Nicola Berns, a registered nurse and staff development facilitator in St. Luke’s intensive-care unit
“We’re moving people,” Berns said. “It’s not a delicate activity.”
Nursing assistants do most of the moving and pay for it with one of the highest rates of back injuries of any career, Berns said.
In fact, a 2012 Research Triangle Institute study found that 60.2 percent of certified nursing assistants surveyed had suffered a workplace injury within the previous year.
St. Luke’s began addressing the problem in the mid-2000s with accident investigation forms, carefully chronicling every accident that took place and looking for underlying causes, said Marla Halvorson, the hospital’s human resources director.
Hospital leaders then sought feedback from the staff on possible solutions.
“This can’t be human resources or a safety officer telling nurses how to do their jobs, because that’s ridiculous,” Halvorson said.
The hospital started buying free-standing patient lifts and now has at least two per unit, Halvorson said. This year, it will start installing overhead lifts above patients’ beds in some of its rooms, Berns added.
Michael Marturano, the hospital’s safety officer, and Brett Osborne, the director of physical rehabilitation, were instrumental in some of the patient-lifting equipment, Berns said.
Hospital staff members view the effort to reduce injuries as a work in progress, both Halvorson and Berns said. But they have numbers to show they are succeeding. The 34.6 percent reduction in worker’s comp claims occurred at the same time as the number of employees rose by 12 percent, Halvorson said.
During that time, the hospital’s worker’s comp costs dropped from $1.36 for every $100 of payroll to 43 cents.
The national honor follows St. Luke’s designation as the only 2012 winner of the Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award from the Minnesota Psychological Association, which qualified the hospital for national honors, according to an American Psychological Association news release.
The state award stemmed from other initiatives in addition to reducing injuries, Halvorson said. But reducing injuries in itself produces a psychologically healthier workplace.
“What we find is that when employees are injured and they aren’t able to work, you lose a part of your social structure,” she said.
Because of that, St. Luke’s tries to find appropriate work for employees who have been injured, Halvorson said.
The bottom line is that when workers’ comp costs drop, the hospital can spend money on serving patients, Halvorson said.
“With the demands on health care now, we don’t want health care dollars going to preventable injuries,” she said.