Preventing RN Injury With Patient Positioning


I'm a semi-new RN on a surgical floor. Ratio is 5:1 and I work nights (12 hour shifts). The past two shifts I worked we were short staffed, 36 bed unit with only 8 nurses and no tech.

One of my pts was a quad who was a turn every 2. A sling and lift were in use for this. However, she continually was calling staff in to move her hips, shoulders, etc. All of which were things that require physical manipulation. The pt became very upset if told that she needed to wait until I could find another staff member, as this could take around 20 minutes to find someone who was free. I would try to make some adjustments myself, but the frequency of repositioning led to a very sore body today.

I am very frustrated that I felt I had to assist this pt unsafely for myself due to short staffing. I don't know what my options are to avoid this in the future? How can I protect myself from injury while keeping the pt comfortable?

Specializes in SICU, trauma, neuro. Has 16 years experience.

Honestly, my pt's wait for me to get the help I need, upset or not. Of course I realize it's a raw deal to not even be able to move your shoulders yourself and I'm sure she was very frustrated...but her feelings won't prevent me from getting hurt. And staying free of injury is vital to our livelihoods and to our well-being. Hugs!!


565 Posts

I would discuss it with employee health. At least at my facility they are responsible for training nurses how to avoid musculoskeletal injuries. And have all kinds of gadgets (and training for them) for employees to use as well.

Im presuming your facility doesnt have them, but just in case I would check if you have patient lifts. My facility has patient lifts on every unit, and several rooms with lifts on the ceiling above the beds. Allows you to move/turn/re-position/change bandages etc etc on heavy patients with virtually no physical effort.

Where I went to school I never saw or heard of these things, but I assume they will become incredibly common over the coming years with patients getting more massive.

Of course my hospital might just have them because theyre well known for bariatric surgery, so extra large patients are to be expected.


18 Posts

There are a lot of tricks for positioning/moving patients yourself...when I was new, I followed around the best tech I work with for a shift and turned/positioned all the patients with her, and asked her the best way to do things. Give me a well-positioned draw sheet and a pt 200lbs or under and I can usually reposition and turn them myself now.

however. I only have one back. I will not do anything by myself that I know I can't do or might hurt me (or the pt!!), and sometimes they just have to wait.

Specializes in Critical Care, Education. Has 35 years experience.

Just one of the reasons we love or HillRom TotalCare beds..... auto turn assist among other things. Surely, a patient with this type of complexity deserves an upgrade from the 'plain jane' bed. Talk to your case manager to see if one can be arranged.


1,198 Posts

Specializes in LTC, med/surg, hospice. Has 7 years experience.

They have to wait. I don't risk hurting myself. If I do it wrong and am injured enough to have to miss work, they won't be sympathetic.