Key messages

  • The Victorian Nurses Back Injury Prevention Project (VNBIPP) addresses the high proportion of back injuries incurred by nurses.
  • The VNBIPP is providing patient handling aids and equipment, as well as education in ‘no lifting’ principles and techniques.
  • Funding is available to support ongoing back injury prevention education via the Continuing Nurse Education Grant scheme and assistance with back injury prevention equipment costs through the Targeted Equipment Program.

Victorian Nurses Back Injury Prevention Project

The Victorian Nurses Back Injury Prevention Project (VNBIPP) began in 1998 to address the high proportion of back injuries incurred by nurses.

The department provided funding to help implement nurse back injury prevention programs within public healthcare facilities from 1999 to 2003. Four rounds of funding totalled $8.35 million. This allowed the department to fund 111 public health facilities across Victoria to implement back injury prevention programs.

Aims of the VNBIPP

The VNBIPP program is directed at eliminating or minimising manual handling when moving patients. This is being achieved by providing patient handling aids and equipment, and education in ‘no lifting’ principles and techniques. Importantly, critical components of the VNBIPP are directed at nurses, encouraging them to use new methods for moving patients. These include:

  • raising awareness among nurses
  • encouraging nurses to be proactive in identifying hazards and reducing risks of injury in the workplace
  • educating nurses in patient risk assessment, encouraging patient independence and mobility
  • encouraging patients to assist in their own transfers.

Organisational commitment to prevent back injuries is required at all levels to facilitate long-term cultural change throughout the health service industry.

The aims of the VNBIPP are to:

  • help facilities to implement back injury prevention programs based on no lifting principles and policies
  • facilitate long-term cultural change in healthcare organisations and among healthcare staff by encouraging new attitudes (the project aims to eliminate unsafe practices that have traditionally led to a high risk of injury among nurses)
  • help healthcare organisations to implement effective procedures for risk identification, assessment and control of patient handling injuries among nurses.

Following a preliminary evaluation in 2002, the department contracted the University of Ballarat to evaluate the success of the project in 2004.

Key findings from the 2004 report are:

  • a 24 per cent reduction in the rate of standard back injury claims by nurses in public health service agencies in Victoria
  • a 41 per cent reduction in the rate of working days lost associated with standard back injury claims by nurses in public health service agencies in Victoria
  • a 23 per cent reduction in the average working days lost per claim from 100 days per claim in the pre-implementation period to 77 days in the post-implementation period.

In addition to these findings, nurses surveyed during the evaluation reported strong support and ownership of the programs, an increasing readiness to report injuries earlier and higher levels of responsibility for their own safety in the work environment.

To support ongoing back injury prevention education, health services can make a submission to the Continuing Nurse Education Grant (CNEG) scheme. They can apply for assistance with back injury prevention equipment costs through the Targeted Equipment Program (TEP).

Each health service can make submissions to either or both of these schemes according to their own program requirements and assessed needs.

More information can be found from the Medical Equipment Program.

Submissions for the CNME grant can be made annually, and further information can be found from the continuing nursing and midwifery education grant page. Rural directors of nursing and nurse education managers should contact their regional agency liaison officer for further information.

The Implementation framework for the introduction/maintenance/extension of nurse back injury prevention programs – 2004 is a resource to assist healthcare facilities to sustain successful nurse back injury prevention programs. The framework provides guidance on the key requirements that organisations will be expected to comply with when applying for funding for training/equipment to support nurse back injury prevention programs.

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