The Lifting Debate

  1. A bit of an issue that's re-raised it's head in a few of the current threads is assisting/doing lifts. One common complaint that I've heard among male RNs is that they get called on to do all the heavy lifts and deal with combative patients. Thought it might be interesting to formalize it a bit and in one thread rather than have it spread over a few as an aside like it is at the moment.

    My take on this is that heavy lifting and dealing with combative patients is a skill I bring to the table just as much as being able to start difficult IVs and do difficult catheters, etc. However this is something I bring as ME, not as a male RN. I'm 5' 8" and run about 190, have done judo for twenty years and lift a lot of weights. I'm very physically strong and very well-equipped to deal with violent and/or combatitive people. So I really don't mind when my colleagues ask me to help with heavy lifts or deal with aggressive pts or run to Code Whites (violent pt/visitor) when they're called.

    One big thing I find is that I'm always very careful with using proper body mechanics. This makes a big difference. I'm also a big advocate of using mechanical aids when needed. I'll often do a really heavy transfer with someone and then make sure that they know that next time we use the hoyer! It takes more time but using these aids really is a good idea to save peoples backs. I know it's often hard to take the extra couple minutes but I keep reinforcing it at my work.

    So I guess for me it's not really an issue. I make sure I look after myself and if something seems too heavy or too unsafe I make sure we either don't do it or use the appropriate aids to make it safe. I try to use my extra muscle to help everyone else as best I can, just like I use my other skills that are a bit more developed.

    My advice would be though, make sure you don't let yourself get taken advantage of. There have been days where I've drawn the line after I've helped with 8 stretcher transfers and asked for a colleague to grab someone else. Take care of yourself, exercise and lift weights if you can and make sure if you work out to include some core exercises (abs and back).

    Interested to hear everyone elses experiences and thoughts.
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    About bigjay

    Joined: Mar '00; Posts: 94; Likes: 14
    Oncology Nurse

    6 Comments

  3. by   karenG
    we have a 'no lifiting' policy here... patients who need to be lifted are done so using hoists, if they are in bed we have sheets etc. But I dont know of any hospital where nurses are actually physically lifting patients any more.

    wish it had come in sooner.. I have a chronic back problem because of lifting in my earlier years as a nurse.

    Karen
  4. by   jov
    Quote from bigjay
    My take on this is that heavy lifting and dealing with combative patients is a skill I bring to the table just as much as being able to start difficult IVs and do difficult catheters, etc. However this is something I bring as ME, not as a male RN.
    What a great attitude, bigjay. It's refreshing to see people appreciating their skills and natural abilities.

    In my 20's, I was able to put a patient into the back of an ambulance with the stretcher, even though I was 5'1", 115#. Nowadays, at 47, I'm just not willing to risk their safety or mine, so I defer to those who are better equipped. However now that I'm in nursing school, guess who gets asked the questions about reading EKG strips, cardiac physiology, or how to deal with an instructor who's perceived as unfair in her evaluations? My strengths lie in maneuvering the corporate landmines and in encouraging teamwork. So I can't lift physically. I can lift the team's spirits! And isn't that what makes going to work fun, working with people you like?
  5. by   nursemike
    Quote from jov
    What a great attitude, bigjay. It's refreshing to see people appreciating their skills and natural abilities.

    In my 20's, I was able to put a patient into the back of an ambulance with the stretcher, even though I was 5'1", 115#. Nowadays, at 47, I'm just not willing to risk their safety or mine, so I defer to those who are better equipped. However now that I'm in nursing school, guess who gets asked the questions about reading EKG strips, cardiac physiology, or how to deal with an instructor who's perceived as unfair in her evaluations? My strengths lie in maneuvering the corporate landmines and in encouraging teamwork. So I can't lift physically. I can lift the team's spirits! And isn't that what makes going to work fun, working with people you like?
    Also a great attitude!

    Before I became a nurse, I was an orderly, sort of, and on numerous occassions I was called to assist with a lift, only to find 8 healthy young women waiting for me to help lift a 300lb patient. Now, let's see 300/8= 37.5 lbs/nurse. Not trivial, but I would squeeze in, get one hand on the lift sheet, and we would perform the transfer easily. Apologies in advance, but the conclusion I reached was that the nurses were more confident to do the lift if a guy was there. (I used to joke--lovingly--that it was because I knew how to count to three.)
    Please understand, the nurses I was helping weren't weak, or stupid, or inept, or needy. What constantly amazed me was that these were some of the strongest, most capable, and most independent women I've known, but they would consistently wait for me or one of my male colleagues. Please understand, too, that I didn't begrudge the help, and as my technique improved, I took pride in being someone they could call for a tricky one-person pivot or really heavy lift (we fairly routinely get some pts that 8 reasonably strong women couldn't safely lift, but 8 reasonably strong men could.)

    And, much in the spirit of bigjay and jov, when I finally became a nurse--a brand-new, scaredy-cat, hopelessly disorganized, and usually confused novice nurse--I got a heck of a lot of support from more experienced nurses. I still get a lot of help and encouragement, and I still don't mind lending a hand with patient transfers. It happens to be something I have some skill and experience with, and if there are times when it seems like all I'm really providing is moral support, that's okay, too. Sometimes all I really need is moral support.
  6. by   Wave
    Just a brief story:
    I went to employee health @the facility where I work for my TB test. When the nurse heard that I was in school for nursing, she said to be sure that I started working out before working on the floor because I would be getting all the heavy pt's.

    Can't really say if that will happen, as I'm still in school, but...
  7. by   AuntieRN
    I am just as guilty as the next calling on a male nurse or CNA to help me lift a heavy pt or to help me with a combative pt. But please remember to be kind to your body and back. You can hurt yourself just like anyone else can and then where will you be? Thank you to all the male nurses and CNAs who help us out.
  8. by   bigjay
    Quote from Wave
    Just a brief story:
    I went to employee health @the facility where I work for my TB test. When the nurse heard that I was in school for nursing, she said to be sure that I started working out before working on the floor because I would be getting all the heavy pt's.

    Can't really say if that will happen, as I'm still in school, but...
    I really think this is excellent advice for ALL nurses who do frontline patient care, male and female. In my experience very few of my colleagues do much in the way of regular excercise, much less core strength building exercises, and I think this is a major factor in injury causation / prevention.

    I find I get a lot of older nurses telling me "You can get away with that now but down the road...". While I agree you should never over-do lifts I also usually like to remind them that I'm a completely different person than most of them. My body is quite used to being bent, torqued and twisted with pressure applied since I've done judo for many, many years. I find as long as I keep up my exercise level and weights I never have back pain even when I do lots of lifts and transfers. Good body positioning is also key. Always keep your back in a straight line and you'll greatly reduce your chance of injury, this is something I'm always very concious of when I approach a heavier lift/transfer.

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