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Features Health & Wellness SCC ahead of the curve with safe patient handling class

Southwestern Community College has introduced a safe patient handling class to prepare health sciences students for working with equipment like the SARA 3000 device featured in this photo provided by medical equipment manufacturer Arjo Huntleigh.After enough years of moving and helping lift patients, healthcare workers often wind up being in need of medical care themselves.

Southwestern Community College instructor Susan Kimel, PT, estimates that half the healthcare professionals with whom she’s worked over the past 30 years have suffered either lower back or shoulder pain from assisting patients.

Avoiding those types of work-related injuries is why Kimel, Diane Page, PT, and other SCC faculty members launched a safe patient handling class this fall. The course introduced students to the proper techniques for using mechanical lifting equipment to move patients rather than relying solely on the workers’ strength.

Students in all 12 of SCC’s health science programs will be required to take the course since safe patient handling applies to all disciplines.

“The average cost of a back injury is far higher than the cost of these mechanical devices,” said Kimel, an instructor and clinical coordinator for SCC’s Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) program. “Congress is looking at a proposed bill that would require equipment and lifts at all healthcare facilities. We decided to start training our students on that type of equipment so they’ll be ahead of the curve. We know the legislation is coming, and 10 states already require it, so it’s just a matter of time.”

SCC graduate Kelly Owens, PTA, who now works at MedWest Harris, coordinated opportunities for Southwestern students to get hands-on training with the hospital’s mechanical lifting equipment.

The shift to using machine-driven lifts has been endorsed by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

“It’s about trying to help people survive in the profession for longer periods of time,” Kimel said. “There are a lot of factors to consider. The retirement age keeps getting pushed back, people are living longer, and obesity has become more widespread. So using mechanical lifts like these makes sense.”

For more information about SCC and its health science programs, visits

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