Handling patients safely in the operating theatre
The working environment in an operating theatre is often distinguished by demanding work processes and limitations on available space. As a rule, operating theatres are packed with all kinds of equipment, so staff will often have little room in which to lift and/or move the patient.
When dealing with bariatric patients, it is not uncommon to have to call on the assistance of 4–6 people to complete the move in the best and gentlest manner possible. This, in turn, often requires carers to work in awkward, ergonomically challenging positions.
As patients in operating theatres are generally under the influence of painkillers and/or anaesthetics, they are rarely capable of providing any assistance themselves when they are being lifted, moved and positioned.
All in all, operating theatres are often the setting for complex moves – turning patients onto their stomach, for example – and procedures that typically involve multiple staff.
It is also common to have to perform heavy lifting in operating theatres. Lifting legs during skin sterilisation processes is a typical example of a procedure that demands long-term static muscle effort.
Common lifting and moving procedures in operating theatres include:
- Lifting extremities to allow washing or sterilisation, or as part of the operation itself
- Repositioning patients on the operating table
- Lifting patients with limited movement
- Turning patients positioned on their stomach
- Turning patients onto their side on the operating table
- Positioning thorax pillows
- Moving patients between bed/stretcher trolley and the operating table
- Positioning legs in leg slings
Welfare technology for a modern operating theatre
In a hectic working environment, it is only natural for the staff to focus primarily on the safe handling of the patient and correct performance of the surgical procedures, at the expense of concentrating on their lifting technique when manually moving and positioning the patient.
Handling patients manually have been standard practice in operating theatres for many years, but taking into account how quickly technical innovation has progressed in the field of healthcare, it must surely be worth thinking about how to improve the physical working environment for operating theatre staff.
Compared with many other sectors, healthcare staff are much more prone to musculoskeletal injuries – injuries that often give rise to protracted periods of sick leave and even early retirement on account of bodily strain and fatigue.
A ceiling hoist system makes it appreciably easier and safer to lift and move patients. It also frees up staff, allowing them to devote more time to other patients and/or duties.
Installing a ceiling hoist in an operating theatre opens the door to optimising the physical working environment for the staff. It enables them to perform lifts and moves – including positioning patients on their stomach – more efficiently while maintaining a safe, responsible working posture.
An appropriate hoist system combined with the associated range of slings will also significantly improve patient safety, with the risk of friction injuries to the patient’s skin falling sharply when all lifts are performed calmly and with little stress or strain.