Bernard Valencia’s room in the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif., illustrates how hospitals across the country could fight a nationwide epidemic. As soon as you enter the room, you can see one of the main strategies: A hook hangs from a metal track that runs across the ceiling.
This isn’t some bizarre way of fighting hospital-acquired infections or preventing the staff from getting needle sticks. The contraption is a ceiling hoist designed to lift and move patients with a motor instead of muscle.
As NPR has reported in our investigative series Injured Nurses, nursing employees suffer more debilitating back and other injuries than almost any other occupation — and they get those injuries mainly from doing the everyday tasks of lifting and moving patients.
But the Loma Linda hospital is part of a nationwide health care system that is proving hospitals can dramatically reduce the rate of injuries caused by lifting — if administrators are willing to invest the time and money.
The name of the system might surprise you. It’s the VA — the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Photo credit: Annie Tritt for NPR