Registered nurses spend a great deal of their time working. A full-time nurse may spend in the neighborhood of 59,000 hours on the job, if not more, in the span of a 30-year career. It’s clear that having a healthy work environment with safe workplace practices and conditions is vital to nurses’ overall health, wellness, and safety.
What’s always been equally clear to ANA and many nurses—and has become increasingly apparent to others in health care—is that our work environment also affects the health and safety of our patients. In its report “Improving Patient and Worker Safety: Opportunities for Synergy, Collaboration and Innovation,” The Joint Commission repeatedly makes the case that patients’ and employees’ well-being go hand in hand. For example, infection-prevention measures, such as safer sharps programs and the proper use and availability of personal protective equipment, benefit the health of nurses and patients by decreasing the risk of infection in both.
Another recent report, “Through the Eyes of the Workforce: Creating Joy, Meaning, and Safer Health Care,” from the Lucien Leape Institute, addresses many of the factors that contribute to a healthy work environment, from mutual respect and civility to workforce wellness programs. The report further maintains that employees who know their well-being is considered a priority by their employers are less likely to experience burnout and, in turn, are more likely to deliver more effective and safer care.
ANA recently released interprofessional national standards that address safe patient handling and mobility—a work environment issue that is a priority within ANA. In this issue of American Nurse Today, an ANA article addresses these standards in more depth. We believe the new Safe Patient Handling and Mobility: Interprofessional National Standards are a valuable resource for nurses and healthcare workers across the care continuum.
We know that nurses experience a high rate of musculoskeletal disorders, the result of repeatedly transferring, repositioning, and mobilizing patients. And as nurses, we tend to do whatever it takes to prevent a patient from falling—even if it means putting our own backs, shoulders, and necks at risk.
Also, we have all witnessed how frightened our patients, particularly the frail elderly, can be when they have to transfer from their bed to a chair. More than once during the course of my 26-plus years of providing direct-care nursing, I can recall a patient sizing me up and asking whether I can really help her into a chair all by myself.
Now, even though there have been great advances in safe patient handling and mobility technology, its use and availability continue to be spotty. Safe patient handling and mobility policies have been inconsistent as well.
That’s why ANA took the lead in convening national interprofessional experts on safe patient handling and mobility to create these standards that we hope will soon become standard operating procedure wherever patient care is provided. These eight standards include calling on employers and healthcare workers to work together to establish a culture of safety, to implement and maintain safe patient handling and mobility programs, and to establish a system for education.
This work also represents ANA and its members heeding the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine’s report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” which urge nurses to lead interprofessional efforts to improve the quality of care. And we intend to continue collaborative approaches to improve other aspects of the healthcare work environment, because we truly believe a healthy work environment leads not only to healthier employees but to healthier patients and safer, higher-quality care.
For more on the standards and ANA’s Healthy Work Environment and HealthyNurse™ programs, go to
Karen A. Daley, PhD, RN, FAAN
President, American Nurses Association