Study: Electrical beds safe in psychiatric units


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A new study suggests electrical beds are safe in psychiatric units, and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics is ahead of the curve with 58 electric beds.

John Wagner, the director of the Behavioral Unit at the UIHC, and Todd Ingram, a clinical assistant professor of nursing, said the article is the first of its kind to explore creative ways to keep a safe environment for acute-care psychiatric units and the use of electrical hospital beds. The article discussed staff members’ observations on how safe the beds are for patients in the adult psychiatric unit after a year.

For 25 years, the UIHC Behavioral Health Unit did not have electric hospital beds because of safety reasons. But after the Journal of Psychosocial Nursing published Wagner’s article in January, UIHC officials made the decision to replace the old mechanically operated beds.

The UIHC has 58 electric hospital beds in the adult psychiatric unit alone, with units ranging from eating and mood disorders, Wagner said.

The main concern with using electric beds in the psychiatric unit was that it could be a threat to patients who were actively suicidal, Wagner said. The beds are designed by Sizewise specifically for patients who attempt to hurt themselves. The design has a shorter electrical cord, wires and circuits are channeled and locked underneath the mattress, and the key to turn on the bed is always turned off when nurses are finished taking care of patients.

Ingram, who has worked at the UIHC for 30 years, thought the old mechanical beds were dangerous.

“The old beds presented some dangers, such as offering many points where severely suicidal patients could tie a sheet or similar item to hang themselves,” he said.

Ingram also likes the new beds because they can be lowered to the floor level.

“Lowering the beds minimizes the risk of patients who might fall while attempting to get out of bed when they need assistance,” he said.

Wagner’s observations are just a start, because they have not been backed up by research.

But Wagner feels that it’s a great first step.

“I’m excited because in truth, it’s not often we have a chance to really reshape the field that we work with. Granted, mental health is a small part of the health-care field, but within the health-care field that is mental health, this is a big contribution, and I really think it’s going to improve things for staff and patients,” Wagner said.

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