Importance: Safe patient handling is intrinsic in health care provision, yet education in the skills required for safe patient handling is inconsistently delivered, with limited evidence that traditional face-to-face training reduces risk.
Objective: To assess the long-term effectiveness of replacing annual practical handling updates with an online training system, combined with competency assessment of skill and safety.
Design: Quasi-experimental longitudinal 3-yr study to track practical people handling skill development among undergraduate occupational therapy students. All participants had access to a multimedia online training system (that replaced tutor-led practical training), used in combination with annual competency evaluations to measure skills and safety in four people handling tasks.
Setting: All competency assessment took place on site in the School of Health and Society, University of Salford (Salford, United Kingdom).
Participants: Undergraduate BSc(Hons) occupational therapy students (N = 243).
Outcomes and Measures: Participants attended individual 45-min competency evaluations at three data collection points: beginning of Years 2 and 3 and end of Year 3. Data were collected by trained assessors using a competency assessment tool.
Results: Results demonstrate significant increases in skill level for sit-to-stand and repositioning in the chair (p < .05) and for hoisting and slide sheet maneuvers (p < .0001). Participants achieved 100% safety scores for repositioning in the chair and hoisting.
Conclusions and Relevance: Students using the online system performed significantly better than students receiving traditional annual practical updates, providing an evidence base to reduce tutor-led training hours while increasing skill and safety levels using a combination of the online system and competency assessment.
What This Article Adds: This approach was found to reinforce safe handling techniques and increase independence, competency, and safety of service users and caregivers working in health and social care environments while reducing time spent delivering annual people handling updates. The findings support replacement of face-to-face training updates, particularly in the current climate of social distancing.