APH 2002, 60, 115-123:

The effectiveness of teaching appropriate lifting and transfer techniques to nursing students: results after two years of follow-up.

G. Moens, K. Johannik, T. Dohogne and G. Vandepoele

Keywords: intervention study, low back pain, lifting techniques, nursing students

Objective: To evaluate the effect of teaching lifting and transfer techniques to nursing students, a controlled intervention study was set up in a nursing school in Leuven (Belgium).  Results after two years of follow-up are presented.

Methods and study population: Control (n = 124) and intervention group (n = 100) consisted of first year nursing students enrolled at the start of their training.  Both groups only differed by the year of starting the studies: the intervention group started after a lapse of one year (in 1993 versus in 1992).  Outcome and exposure variables were measured through a self-administered questionnaire.  Spells of back pain were retrospectively inquired for after one and after two years of follow-up.  The intervention consisted in offering a regular training in lifting and transfer techniques.  Incidence risks were calculated.  Lost to follow-up was 66% in the intervention and 53% in the control group.

Results and discussion: After two years the incidince risk of one or more episodes of back pain was 78.0% in the intervention and 83.7% in the control group (not significant; p > 0.05).  The incidence risk of one or more episodes of sick leave due to low back pain was 2.0% in the intervention and 7.3% in the control group (Fisher exact p = 0.070) and the mean number of days of sick leave were 8 per 100 students in the intervention versus 64 in the control group (Mann Whitney U-test; p = 0.068).  The same analyses among the subgroup of students without complaints at the start of the study yielded comparable results.  Although the power of the study was too small, this could mean that not the incidence as such, but rather the severity of back pain and the risk of sick leave could be lowered through the intervention among nursing students.