BEMIDJI, Minn. — The story behind the newly unveiled Clinical Resource Center in the Bemidji State University Department of Nursing began more than five years ago in the back of registered nurse Stacey Lundquist.
Twenty years as a nurse, decades of pushing patients on equipment-laden gurneys, had slowly and steadily eroded Lundquist’s physical abilities. In 2003, her body reached its limits and gave way. While helping to push a 300-pound patient on a hospital bed loaded with equipment — a total load Lundquist estimated at approximately 800 pounds — across a carpeted floor, a severe pain laced its way up her spine. Her life changed forever.
Lundquist, who at the time was working to complete her four-year nursing degree at Bemidji State, underwent four surgeries over a three-year period in an attempt to repair the damage inflicted by the injury. Unable to sit through classes due to back pain, she had to leave school. She remains mostly immobilized. The pain in her back leaves her unable to walk; unable to drive; unable to ride a bicycle; unable to sleep or rest without the aid of medication.
“She will never work as a nurse again,” said Dr. Jeanine Gangeness, associate professor and chair of the Department of Nursing at Bemidji State. “Her life will never be the same. She can’t pick up her grand kids.”
Unfortunately, Lundquist’s tragic story is far from unique.
Due to the increasing volume of stories like hers, coming from nurses across Minnesota and around the world, the Minnesota Nurses Association joined other nursing associations by voicing its support of a “no lift” law for nurses.
In 2007, Lundquist testified during a Minnesota Senate subcommittee hearing on a proposed Safe Patient Handling Act. In 2008, Minnesota passed a law providing grants to support safe patient-handling programs and activities in health care facilities.
Lundquist’s ties to Bemidji State as a former student and her role in the passage of the Safe Patient Handling Act would each ultimately play a role in the development and design of Bemidji State University’s Clinical Resource Center. The Department of Nursing felt the new center could not only be the centerpiece of the educational experience for its baccalaureate nursing students, but also help the department teach future nurses to avoid injuries like the one that ended Lundquist’s career.
The $500,000 center, which opened this January in the lower level of Memorial Hall, provides core laboratory experiences for the University’s four-year nursing track students. Its simulation lab presents students with scenarios closely resembling clinical experiences and allows faculty to immediately debrief students in adjacent seminar rooms.
The center features five health care suites, each dedicated to different areas of health care: pediatrics; medical-surgical; intensive care; home care; and a birthing center, complete with a female mannequin capable of giving birth to a simulated infant. The suites each contain state-of-the-art equipment and simulation aids for each specialty area and are tied into Command Central, an electronic medical record system.
Integrated into the center are six mechanical patient lift systems, including one in each of the five specialty suites. All six were donated to the Department of Nursing by Bemidji Medical Equipment during construction of the center.
The donation to Bemidji State was part of a broad effort by Bemidji Medical Equipment to support nursing education in Minnesota Even before the state passed its Safe Patient Handling Act, the company announced it would donate a patient lift system to Minnesota colleges and universities with nursing programs.
“We wanted to affect change in the nursing profession with regard to assistive technology,” said Bemidji Medical Equipment’s Gary Johnson. “We talked to program directors, and they were still teaching manual transfer mechanics.”
Bemidji Medical Equipment’s decision to donate no-lift systems serendipitously coincided with Bemidji State’s efforts to construct its lab. The company lept at the opportunity to showcase its products in a brand new facility in its home town, and worked with the University and lab architects to specifically design the health care suites to accommodate no-lift systems. The support and guide rail for the lifts are constructed into the ceiling, leaving no impact on floor space around the patient beds.
“There’s no play in the system,” Gangeness said. “The rails are stable and do not move, which helps give the patient an increased sense of security and safety while they’re in the lifts.”
So far, the company has donated lift motors to eight schools in the Minnesota College and Universities system — including the six installed in Bemidji State’s lab.
For Gangeness and the rest of the Department of Nursing, the Clinical Resource Center will help provide closure to a story that has come full circle.
“The story behind this lab started with a tragedy involving one of our students,” Gangeness said. “From that tragedy, a new law was passed and implemented, support was gathered to install the systems into schools, and our students are now being educated to protect themselves while caring for their patients.”
“Bemidji State is certainly ahead of the curve in using assistive technology for patient transfer,” Johnson said. “From what I have seen, many other programs will see this lab and will be seeking funds to remodel.”
Ultimately, the goal of the lab is to educate baccalaureate nurses, and keep them healthy and on the job. The American Nurses Association estimates that 12 percent of nurses leave the profession each year due to injury, exacerbating the existing national nursing shortage.
“The Department of Nursing feels strongly that Stacy’s tragedy should never happen again,” Gangeness said. “Our dedication to students, along with the generous donation from Bemidji Medical Equipment, will make it possible for us to educate all of our students on safe patient handling.
“More nurses will have long careers as nurses,” Gangeness added, “and fewer nurses will become patients.”
For more information about the Clinical Resource Center, please contact Dr. Jeanine Gangeness, chair of the Department of Nursing, at (218) 755-3870.
ON THE WEB
• Department of Nursing: http://www.bemidjistate.edu/academics/departments/nursing
Statistical information on back injuries and nursing
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has identified back injuries as the second-leading occupational injury in the United States, and the cost of these back injuries is staggering. A 2001 Ohio State University study found costs associated with a back injury to be as much as $10,000 for a first-time injury, with costs skyrocketing to as high as $300,000 for those with severe or repeated injuries. The same study found more than 420,000 people missed work in the United States due to back injuries in 1999, with each injury causing a person to miss an average of six days on the job.
Similar studies have found nurses to be at a disproportionately high risk for on-the-job back injuries. A 2006 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found people in various nursing professions occupied two of the top five jobs listed as those with the highest risk for sprains and strains. Of those injuries to nurses, more than one third were found to have been associated with the handling of patients and the frequency with which nurses are required to manually move patients.