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The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has a safe patient handling (SPH) program to enable healthcare workers to move their patients in a way that does not cause strain/injury. The APTA recognizes that PT/PTA’s have a high rate of injury while performing patient functional mobility with lower level patients. Manual patient handling tasks result in excessive physical loads that can lead to injury. Settings for SPH programs include acute care, rehabilitation, and long term care facilities where staff provide assistance with patient functional mobility (gait and transfers).

In facilities with a SPH programs in place, the PT’s report a reduction in fatigue and an increase in treatment options, allowing earlier and more frequent patient mobilization in lower functioning patients.

  • However, therapists have expressed concerns that current SPH equipment may hinder rehabilitation. The SPH currently available, is designed to reduce physical effort during handling tasks but not necessarily to enhance rehabilitation as it promotes passive patient participation.

  • Therapist’s also cited their main factors that limit their use of SPH equipment: lack of appropriate equipment, takes too long to set up, the device is complicated, options are bulky/expensive, limited availability, patient’s fear of lifts. Although therapists have expressed interest in SPH equipment, they have reservations about the current equipment available.

  • The APTA encourages PT’s and PTA’s to be involved in the design and implementation of equipment and strategies to improve the safety within their environments for themselves and their patients.


Research has shown that therapists will choose an alternative treatment intervention, usually for self-preservation, which could compromise patient outcomes

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