Safe Patient Handling: Laundering Patient Slings

August 14, 2019 | Healthcare

Safety is of critical importance for employees in every industry – especially for healthcare workers. Overexertion is a common form of injury in the workplace, and regulations are starting to pop-up to help minimize this occurrence. According to the Center for Disease Control, “Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that in 2014, the rate of overexertion injuries averaged across all industries was 33 per 10,000 full time workers. By comparison, the overexertion injury rate for hospital workers was twice the average (68 per 10,000), the rate for nursing home workers was over three times the average (107 per 10,000) … The single greatest risk factor for overexertion injuries in healthcare workers is the manual lifting, moving and repositioning of patients, residents or clients, i.e., manual patient handling.” That’s why many healthcare centers have begun installing regulations around safe patient handling to ensure that not only patients are safe when being transported throughout facilities, but that their handlers are protected as well. Products such as patient slings, sheet slides, loop slings and other transfer devices are becoming commonplace in healthcare facilities nationwide.

What are Patient Slings?

Patient slings vary in terms of design, material and size, but are becoming regular fixtures in patient rooms from coast to coast. Many slings involve a jib and a hoist, and they are made of reinforced fabric or vinyl with Velcro closures. Unsurprisingly, each sling should be laundered professionally after patient use. As such, healthcare facilities are outfitted with special hampers specifically for patient sling use, and the hospital staff is instructed to utilize the hampers when disposing of soiled slings so that they may be laundered.

Necessity of Tracking Patient Slings

A major concern regarding patient sling laundering is the ability to keep track of the slings. Many hospitals are having trouble keeping track of slings because they tend to get thrown in with the rest of the bulk laundry and lost in the process. This can be a costly process, because each sling is worth between $300 and $1,000, depending on the style. It’s hugely important that the individual slings remain trackable to ensure inventory remains at an optimal level and each hospital room is outfitted as needed.

Case Study: Tracking Sling Inventory

In 2013, a hospital had created their own Safe Patient Handling program and invested in 408 reusable patient slings. They then added 118 additional slings in 2014 to create a total supply of 526 slings. At the end of 2014, they took a standard inventory of the slings and realized they only had 230 slings left. Throughout the year, they had somehow lost 296 slings – a deficit that added up to $114,730 in lost inventory. What caused the inventory losses? It could be anything from accidental throwaways, slings being mistaken as trash in the biohazard tub, or damage when laundered with standard hospital linens. Regardless, the slings are a huge investment for the healthcare facility and should be treated as such in terms of tracking and inventory management.

Morgan’s Patient Sling Program

To address this new concern at hospital locations, Morgan Services has created a Patient Sling laundry program – similar to their Privacy Curtain and Lab Coat cleaning programs. In essence, Morgan Services will pick up soiled slings/slides/tubes, launder them and micro-chip/barcode them using RFID technology. When the slings have been laundered, they will be returned to the hospitals and scanned into the hospital/floor/room for tracking purposes. The healthcare facility will then be given access to a customer portal where they are provided regular reports such as hospital, floor, and supply room history. This program will make it easier than ever to ensure patient and healthcare worker safety.