Reducing risks for caregivers can yield significant positive returns

Reducing injuries pays long-term dividends for residents, employees and the company

By Mike DeLaney, Argent

In an industry familiar with financial challenges, perhaps one of the most effective and sometimes overlooked ways for senior care facilities to control costs is reducing risk of injury to caregivers.

It’s a simple idea, but one that can only be realized by having a work culture that provides effective training and support that’s able to accurately assess pre- and post-injury situations. The ramifications can be significant, including a reduction in workers’ compensation claims, a reduction in patient injury and an increase in quality of care and productivity while saving valuable resources.

Developing such a culture takes an ongoing commitment to consistently provide information and support that will keep caregivers and residents safe.

While a facility’s staff can be educated, trained and experienced in providing quality care, there is a question to consider: Where can caregivers get qualified, ongoing support that provides the best information possible to minimize risk of injury?

More specifically, it’s important to know who’s providing the support and advice designed to keep caregivers safe. The most effective support will most often come from a professional who knows firsthand the caregiver and patient experience.

One source is a facility’s insurer. The most effective loss control programs in healthcare are those that have loss control and claims consultants who have professional experience working in the industry.

When evaluating a current workers’ compensation insurer or considering a new one, ask how many health care professionals the company has on staff. The broader the experience, the better perspective on risk management solutions they can provide.

When it comes to understanding how injuries occur in a healthcare setting, there’s no replacement for medical people talking to medical people. Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, certified rehabilitation registered nurses, certified occupational health nurses, occupational and physical therapists, emergency medical technicians, registered respiratory therapists — these are the professionals who have a strong understanding of proper body mechanics, allowing them to help incorporate best practices that lower risk of injury.

The two leading loss sources in senior care facilities are the handling and transferring of residents, and slip, trip and falls. It’s not uncommon for many facilities to rely on an occupational or physical therapist to determine resident/patient transfer status and to implement guidelines on how to manage these two situations.

What’s often overlooked, though, is that the roles of therapists in skilled care facilities are different from the roles of certified nursing assistants, who most often handle and transfer residents. Introducing a broader perspective from a diverse collection of experienced healthcare professionals can result in more effective loss control and risk management programs.

Minimizing worker injuries and realizing a return on that investment takes a commitment. It’s not a 90-day effort, but one that’s made over a period of years to truly implement a culture focused on safety and efficiency. There can be a significant payoff, though, not only in fewer worker and patient injuries but reduced insurance costs.

Ultimately, it’s a culture of care allowing caregivers to receive the same quality care and guidance they provide to patients and residents. That leads to high quality results for both caregivers and patients.


Mike DeLaney is assistant vice president of loss control for Argent, a division of West Bend Mutual Insurance Company. He can be reached at