|Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development News Release|
|Wednesday, March 16, 2005
|News Media Contact
Wisconsin Dells – In a speech to healthcare groups Wednesday, Department of Workforce Development Secretary Roberta Gassman described Governor Jim Doyle’s budget initiative to prevent back injuries among healthcare workers as crucial in avoiding a shortage of nurses and other health care workers who routinely lift patients in and out of bed.
“The job of a health care worker can be as physically demanding as that of any laborer, routinely lifting one’s weight or more,” Secretary Gassman said. She cited federal Bureau of Labor Statistics that show nurses, nursing aides and other healthcare workers occupy six of the top ten occupations at greatest risk of back injuries.
According to Wisconsin 2002 statistics, the latest available data, nearly 4,400 healthcare workers suffered injuries on the job, and of those, roughly 69 percent suffered back injuries due to lifting, she said. Such injuries can result in permanent disability, forcing healthcare workers to quit their jobs. Furthermore, she said they can discourage others from entering the profession at a time when Wisconsin faces a serious shortage.
“We need more than 10,000 people every year for ten years to fill new jobs and replace healthcare workers who quit or retire,” Secretary Gassman said. “Nurses are in greatest demand, but shortages are occurring in many other areas.” All offer good paying, family supporting jobs, she noted.
As part of his budget, Governor Doyle proposed the Wisconsin Injury
Prevention Program for Healthcare Workers, providing $500,000 a year to
promote safe patient handling through matching grants for training and
demonstration projects. Healthcare workers will learn proper techniques and
use lifting equipment to minimize the risk of injuries. She noted that
worker’s compensation claims filed by healthcare workers over the last four
years totaled nearly
$1 million. Minimal lift initiatives elsewhere have achieved substantial reductions in injuries, time lost and claims, she said.
Secretary Gassman spoke at the Wisconsin Safe Patient Handling Conference, which DWD sponsored with the Wisconsin Hospital Association and other healthcare organizations. Over 185 attended the conference to hear from Professor Arun Garg, UW-Milwaukee Engineering Chair, a national expert on zero-lift programs, and several Wisconsin healthcare providers that have implemented various minimal-lifting programs.
Content Contact: Rose Lynch