Patient handling training interventions and musculoskeletal injuries in healthcare workers: Systematic review and meta-analysis

Helen L. Kugler, Nicholas F. Taylor, Natasha K. Brusco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Introduction: Workplace injuries are a serious issue for the health and social care industry, with the sector accounting for 20 % of all serious claims reported. The aim of this systematic review was to determine whether patient handling training interventions that included instruction on patient transfer techniques are effective in preventing musculoskeletal injuries in healthcare workers. Methods: Electronic databases MEDLINE (Ovid), EMBASE (Ovid), CINAHL (EBSCO) and Health and Safety Science Abstracts (ProQuest) were searched for controlled trials from January 1996–August 2022. Risk of bias was evaluated using the PEDro scale and overall certainty of evidence assessed using the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development and Evaluation for each meta-analysis. Results: A total of nine studies (3903 participants) were included. There is moderate certainty evidence that could not conclude whether patient handling training affects the 12-month incidence of lower back pain (OR = 0.83, 95 % CI [0.59, 1.16]). There is low certainty evidence that patient handing training does not prevent lower back pain in health professionals without pre-existing pain (MD = −0.06, 95 % CI [-0.63, 0.52]) but may reduce lower back pain in those with pre-existing pain (MD = −2.92, 95 % CI [-5.44, −0.41]). The results also suggest that there may be a positive effect of training incorporating risk assessment on musculoskeletal injury rates; however the evidence is of very low certainty. There is low certainty evidence from a single study that training may have a short-term effect on sickness absences.) Conclusions: There is a lack of evidence to support patient handling training when delivered to all healthcare staff. Training in its current form may be an ineffective strategy for reducing musculoskeletal injuries and pain. High quality disinvestment studies or trials incorporating risk assessment strategies are warranted. Practical Applications: This review suggests health service managers question the effectiveness of current patient handling training practices and consider evaluating current practices before allocating resources to meet employee risk reduction obligations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere24937
Number of pages13
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2024


  • Health personnel
  • Hospitals
  • Low back pain
  • Manual handling
  • Nurses
  • Occupational injuries
  • Safety

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