Educators & HC Students

Information & Resources For Stakeholders – Educators and Health Care Students

More than 30 years of evidence has demonstrated that manual patient handling and relying on body mechanics is unsafe. Furthermore, this evidence indicates that adoption of safe patient handling (SPH) techniques, where nurses, aides and other health care providers use assistive equipment during transfers, is effective in reducing the incidence of Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDS) related to the handling of patients.

Educators at schools of nursing, however, continue to teach outdated techniques for patient handling. These approaches rely on “proper” body mechanics—when there really is no safe method to manually lift another adult human being. The two-person lift and the hook-and-toss methodspersist as primary approaches taught to student nurses for lifting and moving patients. Experts and advocates of safety in handling patients consider these techniques unsafe.

Likely reasons that SPH techniques have not been widely accepted nor incorporated into fundamental nursing education include the fact that (1) the knowledge base for applying ergonomics to handling patients has only recently evolved and (2) available evidence-based teaching materials and resources targeted toward faculty are lacking (NIOSH, 2009).

The resources provided on this page will help instructors design training programs for nursing and other health care students that encourage the use of safe approaches to handling patients, contribute to the prevention of career changing MSDs and can ultimately influence the dissemination of Safer Patient Handling methods throughout the range of healthcare settings.

On this page:

Also refer to the Safe Patient Handling Section on this website for more resources and information about Safe Patient Handling in a variety of health care environments

Toolkits for Incorporating SPH into Nursing Curriculum

Safe Patient Handling Training for Schools of Nursing (2009) Waters, T.R., Nelson, A.L. Hughes, N., & Menzel, N. NIOSH Publication No.: 2009-127. The curriculum was developed in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), and the American Nurses Association (ANA).

This Safe Patient Handling (SPH) curriculum consists of four main elements:niosh SPH

  1. A narrated, approximately 2-hour slide presentation which can be downloaded from the NIOSH webpage or can be viewed via the web.
  2. A series of algorithms (i.e., decision tools that help nurses assess patient needs to decide which equipment is appropriate for a specific patient handling activity)
  3. Didactic materials
  4. Laboratory activities

Go to for more information and to download the “Safe Patient Handling and Movement” presentation and curriculum.

The training program has four main objectives:

  1. Provide evidence-based training on SPH to instructors at schools of nursing so that they can teach SPH methods to students.
  2. Ensure that the training is sound and that the curriculum is effective in improving the knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs of the students.
  3. Provide a full range of educational tools nursing educators can use to increase effectiveness of the training program (see Tool Kit for Safe Patient Handling and Movement Training Program).
  4. Encourage all nursing educators at schools of nursing to use the evidence-based, safe-patient-handling curriculum module and recommended laboratory activities for nurse training.

For more extensive information about Safe Patient Handling consult:

The Illustrated Guide to Safe Patient Handling and Movement (2009). Nelson, A.L., Motacki , K, Menzel, N. New York, NY.Springer Publishing.  This publication includes a DVD that demonstrates the use of SPH equipment as described in the book and also a special guide for nursing instructors.

Safe Patient Handling and Movement: A Practical Guide for Health Care Professionals (2006). Audrey Nelson Editor.Springer Publishing.