Trending Topics
Sponsored Content

The power paradox: The contradiction of power stretchers and manual patient lifting in EMS

If you’re embracing power devices to help move patients, don’t skip the first step

Sponsored by
PHASE Binder Lift Elk 4 -2.jpg

While power stretchers represent a significant advancement in patient transport technology, they must be complemented by power patient lifts to address the inherent contradiction of manual lifting.


Content provided by PHASE

Right now, there’s a glaring irony in how power devices are being used in emergency medical services (EMS). Consider this familiar scenario: EMS providers arrive on scene of a medical emergency and find a 300-pound (or heavier) incapacitated patient in the basement of a home. Providers have a power stair chair ready at the bottom of the stairs, a power stretcher staged at the top of the stairs, and a power load-equipped ambulance out front. And what do they have to pick this patient up off the floor? A bedsheet. We call this the power paradox.

Despite the exorbitant investment in a power stretcher, power load, and even a power stair chair, the initial lift from the ground remains a manual task, fraught with risks for both the provider and the patient. In lieu of a proper lifting device, providers are left to MacGyver up a solution based on what they can find on scene or quickly grab out of the ambulance linen compartment. Once the patient is on the stair chair, they are able to navigate the rest of patient transport with the press of a button.

It’s not surprising, then, that the prevalence of patient lifting-related injuries remains high. Sobering statistics reveal a significant proportion of EMS professionals suffer from musculoskeletal injuries, most often caused by manual patient handling. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that nearly half of all EMS workers experience work-related musculoskeletal injuries, highlighting the urgent need for change within the EMS community’s antiquated practices of patient lifting.

In response to this pressing issue, EMS agencies have turned to technological solutions, investing heavily in power stretchers to alleviate the strain of patient handling. These sophisticated devices – often costing upward of $20,000 – promise to improve the lives of EMS personnel by reducing the physical burden of lifting, loading, and unloading the stretcher. However, amid the celebration of technological innovation lies that glaring power paradox – departments have all the expensive power devices to move patients from one place to another (power stretchers, power loads, and power stair chairs) but don’t complete their power package with a power tool to lift patients up and onto their other power tools.

The irony is palpable – while EMS agencies spare no expense in acquiring state-of-the-art powered patient handling equipment to safeguard the well-being of their personnel and their patients, they overlook the critical component of completing the powered patient handling package with a power patient lift.

According to an independent study of 1,200 EMS providers conducted by the Patient Handling and Safety Experts (PHASE), 52% do not feel they are equipped with the proper equipment to safely lift bariatric patients. With power patient lifts available for under $2,000 – like this inflatable lift capable of lifting 1,000 pounds with the press of a button – the cost of this essential equipment folds under the potential consequences of improvised lifting with a bedsheet.

These manual lifting practices not only increase the risk of injury to EMS personnel and liability for EMS services but also pose a threat to patient safety. This investment can prevent worker’s comp filings, lawsuits from patient drops, and even bad press. The investment in new power lifting devices quickly seems minute in comparison to paying for the potential consequences.

But why specifically emphasize the necessity of a power patient lift? After all, manual lifting with a bedsheet has been a common practice in EMS for decades. The answer lies in the recognition that if nothing changes, nothing changes. The EMS industry can continue its longstanding history of losing quality personnel to injuries from improper patient lifting, or it can break the cycle.

With many technological advances constantly emerging in the industry, like point-of-injury whole blood transfusions and field ultrasounds, it’s easy to forget the most basic responsibilities of an EMS provider: keep themselves safe and do no harm to the patient. Lifting a patient with a bedsheet needlessly compromises both.

EMS personnel deserve equipment designed to meet the changing demands of the job. As the number of lift-assist and fall calls continues to rise, a reliable, efficient, and safe means of patient lifting becomes more and more necessary. A power patient lift is not just about convenience or cost-effectiveness – it’s about equipping EMS providers with the tools they need to perform their duties safely and effectively.

The power paradox in EMS serves as a stark reminder of the critical importance of prioritizing injury prevention and completing the powered patient handling package. While power stretchers represent a significant advancement in patient transport technology, they must be complemented by power patient lifts to address the inherent contradiction of manual lifting. By embracing a comprehensive approach to powered patient handling, EMS agencies can protect the health and safety of their personnel, enhance patient care, and mitigate liability risks, ultimately ensuring the continued success and resilience of the EMS industry.

For more information, visit PHASE.