Aim: The focus of the study is on the stresses affecting the musculoskeletal system of nurses transferring heavy patients to a standing position, which is regarded as a major cause of back pain. As mechanical aids like patient lifts are only available in isolated cases, the use of physical training courses and workouts to improve manual transfer techniques and strengthen the relevant musculature should be encouraged as a viable alternative.
Volunteer group, methodology: The study was performed in a group of 10 nurses (female participants only) caring for 20 heavy patients in an intensive care unit. The training course completed by the volunteers (lasting 5 months, 2 trainings per week) was designed to improve transfer techniques and reduce stresses caused by the heavy loads. Two computerized tests were used to evaluate the results: the MFT S3 - Body Stability Test and the Core Stability Test to determine balance capability and to determine strength profiles of the muscles stabilizing the spinal cord.
Results: Evaluation of the Body Stability Test results showed that a majority of volunteers completing the course (For simplicity’s sake no gender differentiation is stated for nursing staff or patients) experienced improvement in transfer techniques and muscle function. The only values showing little or no improvement were those for symmetry and uniformity in activation of the passive musculoskeletal system. A review of the exercises used for this purpose would be useful. Evaluation of the Trunk Stability Test showed that participation in the course had resulted in functional improvements in excess of target value for the extensor muscles (to the rear of the trunk) and the flexor muscles (to the front). The before/after results for the muscles governing lateral inclination also showed improvements.
Conclusions: Although training courses to improve transfer techniques and muscle strength are a useful alternative for nurses transferring heavy patients in cases where mechanical aids are not available, they are rarely used by or for nurses. Furthermore, they are inadequate for long-term health maintenance, which normally requires comprehensive ergonomic training to eliminate ergonomically incorrect transfer practices. Ergonomic transfer training creates consciousness of the need for a minimum-stress approach to heavy dynamic work and development of a routine for ergonomically correct performance of this type of work. Also of great importance for enhancement and maintenance of nurses’ health is good job organization.