Tri‐County Installs Bariatric Lift For Needs of Patients and Caregivers

Wadena, MN – April 6, 2016 — Both men and women in the United States are roughly an inch taller and 25
pounds heavier than they were in 1960, says the National Center for Health Statistics at the Centers for Disease Control
and Prevention. An increasing number are also overweight or obese. And, according to the Agency for Healthcare
Research and Quality, hospital admissions of obese patients have tripled in the last 20 years and nationally represent
nearly 10 percent of all hospital admissions.
Tri‐County has noticed an increase in their bariatric patients and chose to be proactive. “Larger patients often do
not feel welcome in hospitals and the increase on physical demands on nurses caring for patients was becoming unsafe,”
said Sharyl Rinkel, Assistant Director of Nursing. “We want all of our patients to have access to the same high level of
quality care. Patients are pleased when they see that we meet their individual needs and know that they have caregivers
that are able to take good care of them.”
In 2015, Tri‐County received grants, including one from our Auxiliary, which helped offset the cost of the
equipment. “Thanks to the grants we received, we were able to install a lift system and remodel a patient room at Tri‐
County that is designed with bariatric patients and medical staff in mind,” said Rinkel.
There are many reasons why design guidelines exist for obese and bariatric patients, put perhaps the most
important reason is to retain patient dignity. “We wanted to create a room for these patients to feel valued, safe and
comfortable. We didn’t want their weight to be a barrier,” said Rinkel. “Obese patients are often fearful that we may not
have the appropriate equipment to meet their needs and many times will delay or avoid medical treatment. Because of
their fear, it is extremely important that obese patients are treated with sensitivity and respect.”
Prior to remodeling the room and purchasing the equipment Rinkel said they did their homework. A safety
assessment was done, and submitted to the safety committee, to validate the need for the changes. After that was
complete, much research, including traveling to other hospitals to see what they used, was done to optimize clinical
workflow while protecting both patients and caregivers from injury. It was also important to staff at Tri‐County to get
input from the community. As a result, several patients were contacted to share their opinion about what to put into the room. And most importantly, staff went through onsite training to ensure they were confident in how to use the
equipment properly.
Respecting patient dignity and delivering optimum clinical care are primary issues, as are establishing
procedures for safeguarding the health and well‐being of bariatric and obese patients and the caregivers assigned to
them. To prepare for the specialized needs of these patients, Tri‐County custom designed the room specifically with the
obese patient in mind. Maximizing the space within the entire room was essential. Special designs features included
widening the doors, replacing the bathroom door with a privacy curtain and installing an overhead lift system in the
ceiling. “The ceiling‐mounted design is more efficient and aesthetically pleasing than portable lifts and allows our staff to
safely get our patients where they need to go,” said Rinkel. “Whether it’s to the chair, the bathroom, the shower or to
reposition in bed, the lift allows us to continue to provide safe and appropriate care to all of our patients.”
A TCAT (Transforming Care at Tri‐County) team was also charged with helping to design the room. “Our TCAT
team consisted of nurses, CNA’s and Physical Therapy staff who evaluated what was needed for patients and where
things should be located,” said Rinkel. “They were very engaged and it was evident to me that they wanted this project
to be a success.”
This remodeling and room enhancement project was a testament to the values and mission of Tri‐County Health
Care to improve the health of the communities Tri‐County serves. “I’m proud of all of our staff for the time and energy
involved to create an environment where all patients can receive the same level of care while feeling welcomed and
safe,” said Joel Beiswenger, Tri‐County Health Care President and CEO.

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