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Integration of Safe Patient Handling and Mobility Principles in Professional Physical Therapist Education

A Case Report

Haines, Jamie PT, DScPT, NCS; Arnold, Margaret PT, CEES, CSPHP

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: June 2019 - Volume 33 - Issue 2 - p 113–125
doi: 10.1097/JTE.0000000000000080
Case Report

Background and Purpose. Safe patient handling and mobility (SPHM) programs are being used across the country to safely transport and mobilize patients while at the same time reducing injury risk to caregivers, including physical therapists (PT) and physical therapist assistants (PTA). The American Physical Therapy Association has called PTs and PTAs to not only use the concepts of SPHM in clinical practice, but also be leaders in utilization, development, and implementation of SPHM programs, including training and education of other health care team members. Perlow, et al have recommended that SPHM content be integrated into Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) education. This case report outlines 1 current module used to deliver such content.

Case Description. A neurologic interventions course within the DPT curriculum was selected using a framework that linked content, objectives, and learning activities with relevant Normative Model criteria and Physical Therapist Code of Ethics to improve student self-efficacy with SPHM content. Primary goals were to improve student awareness about risk and impact of work-related musculoskeletal disorders, expose students to the expected role of the PT as an advocate for and educator in SPHM programs, and provide hands-on experience with SPHM technologies. The 6-hour session was completed in 1 day with a 1-hour lecture and 5 hours with a variety of hands-on activities.

Outcomes. Student learning was assessed through a pre–post class questionnaire, documentation/discussion of experiences, and presentations of student-generated neurologic interventions using SPHM equipment. Awareness of increased risk of injury, limits of 'good' body mechanics, and feasibility of using SPHM technologies to improve the quality of physical therapy practice dramatically increased.

Discussion. Students should participate in a variety of learning activities threaded through the curriculum to provide sufficient hands-on opportunities to improve self-efficacy in using SPHM principles in rehabilitation. By developing a basic level of competency with SPHM principles, students may be more likely to adopt SPHM as a professional value once graduated. Improvements to this model, recommendations for SPHM integration into DPT curricula, and research opportunities are discussed.

Conclusion. We have provided 1 model that embeds SPHM content into entry-level physical therapist education. In doing so, educators are advancing physical therapy skills needed to apply evidenced-based therapeutic principles in difficult to move patients while reducing risk of injury to students and new graduates of the profession.

Jamie Haines is the Assistant Professor, in the Doctoral Program in Physical Therapy at the Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow College of Health Professions, Central Michigan University, Health Professions Building 1220, Mont Pleasant, MI 48859 ( Please address all correspondence to Jamie Haines.

Margaret Arnold is the CEO at Inspire Outcomes, LLC.

Margaret Arnold is owner of Inspire outcomes LLC, which is a SPHM company and receives money from consulting and sale of a harness for rehabilitation. Jamie Haines reports no conflict of interest.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Web site (

Received December 08, 2018

Accepted October 09, 2018

Copyright 2019 © Academy of Physical Theraphy Education
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