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University of Iowa News Release

Release: April 11, 2002

New Ergonomic Equipment At UI Hospitals And Clinics Protects Workers' Backs

Health care workers at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics are now using advanced ergonomic equipment to help move patients safely and reduce the risk of job-related back injuries.

Such injuries are common in the health care field. An ordinary task, such as lifting and moving a patient from a bed to a chair to the bathroom and back into bed, can result in a debilitating back or other musculoskeletal injury.

UI Hospitals and Clinics recently acquired more than 665 pieces of patient transfer equipment. The devices range from lateral transfer slides to steadying belts to overhead lifting systems capable of completely raising and moving patients from one location to another.

Eric Briesemeister, safety manager, explained, "This is the biggest safety initiative in health care in the past 10 years. Just like needle-stick safety, transfer equipment will forever change how patients and their caregivers interact."

An ergonomics task force formed in 2000 studied the science of health care ergonomic equipment and the patient handling needs of nurses, physical therapists, radiology technicians, housekeepers and others. Staff members conducted trials and submitted a capital budget proposal in the spring of 2002. Hospital leadership supported the effort to move the organization toward a minimal lift environment.

Today, the ergonomics initiative is well under way. The initial round of staff training is complete and the equipment is now in use on patient care units.

"Before a patient handling task is performed, the health care worker will choose which assistive device is appropriate for the patient's needs," said Karen Stenger, an advanced practice nurse. "The new equipment is capable of helping with tasks that require minimal or extensive assistance."

LouAnn Montgomery, Ph.D., director of nursing education and a member of the task force, agrees. "Some units do up to 100 patient lifts per day. The new equipment will provide more safety for the patient as well as the staff," she said.

The Arjo-Diligent Company is supplying the equipment and helping to train staff in its use at a cost of $660,000 over three years. That figure is the largest expenditure in the capital budget during that time period. The company guarantees that its equipment will reduce patient lifting-related injuries by 60 percent. In addition, the technology may also help patients to walk sooner following surgery and perhaps even shorten their hospital stays.

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide. Visit UI Health Care online at

STORY SOURCE: Joint Office for Planning, Marketing and Communications, University of Iowa Health Care, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room 8798 JPP, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009.

CONTACT: Tom Moore, 319-356-3945,