Wisconsin Hospital Receives Safe Lifting Leadership Award

The Gundersen Lutheran Health System of La Crosse, Wis., has been named the first recipient of the Safe Lifting Leadership Award in recognition of its accomplishments in safe patient handling, safe lifting, and caregiver injury prevention programs. Presented by the Franklin, Mass.-based Safe Lifting Portal, a pro bono health care injury prevention Web site, the new award is designed to encourage other institutions to follow the lead of "best practices" institutions in their attempts to instill permanent, sustainable culture change within their organizations.

Gundersen includes a 325-bed teaching hospital and a Level II Trauma Center, serving patients throughout western Wisconsin, northeastern Iowa, and southeastern Minnesota, providing care in 19 counties. The health system has received 11 top 100 designations. In 2003, it initiated a patient and staff injury prevention program that included installation of ceiling lifts to transfer patients, an extensive staff orientation and training program, and on-going monitoring of usage compliance. The ceiling lifts were installed in units hospital-wide, including intensive care, coronary care, rehabilitation and PT, pediatrics, morgue, diagnostic areas, and the OB/GYN water birth room.

Among the more significant results of the program have been substantial decreases in injury rates, reduced worker's compensation costs, and less employee lost time and restricted time. The program has also increased staff retention rates and proved to be an excellent staff recruitment tool, according to a press release announcing the award.

"Preventing staff injury is good business from the financial standpoint, but also, it is the right thing to do," said Gundersen Safety Manager Gary Brunslik. Kathy Weitekamp, RN, BSN, Care Manager, added, "We've been able to show a 57 percent decrease in the number of patient handling claims, which we feel is pretty significant. Lost time has gone down 78 percent and restricted time has gone down 81 percent, so we're very pleased. Our ceiling lift return on investment has been less than three years."

Dr. William Scorby, Medical Director for Employee Health, said, "We also see the safe lifting program as playing an important role in staff retention and recruiting-- keeping our experienced nurses safe and injury free while attracting new nurses trained in safe lifting techniques to Gundersen Lutheran."

According to the Safe Lifting Portal, the key evaluation criteria for its Safe Lifting Leadership Award is patient safety, advocacy for healthcare excellence, successful implementation of safe lifting initiatives, and willingness to share results and assist other institutions. For more information on the award, visit www.safeliftingportal.com.

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