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'Big Mac' helps nurses lift overweight patients

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'Big Mac' helps nurses lift overweight patients
13:14 CET+01:00
Named after a hamburger and clocking in at 140 kilogrammes, a new doll is set to teach Uppsala University Hospital (Akademiska) staff to work with the increasing number of overweight and obese patients.

"Twenty years ago it was very unusual to encounter patients who weighed 150 kilogrammes, but today it's quite common," physiotherapist Bo Kälvemark told The Local.

The heaviest patient they have so far treated had reached 240 kilogrammes.

"First and foremost, you should never try to lift the patient by yourself, you need to be several people."

Half of Swedish men and one third of the women are overweight today, the hospital noted in a statement.

In 2009, the hospital cared for more than 600 patients with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 40. For women, a healthy height-weight ratio means they find themselves between 20 and 25 on the BMI scale, which does not take body build and muscle tone into consideration.

Among those patients, 11 women were above BMI 54 and two patients were in the 73-88 bracket.

"For medical staff this increases the risk of heavy lifting and strain injuries," the statement read.

The staff at Uppsala University Hospital decided to turn to the Swedish Institute of Assistive Technology in Gothenburg for help. Researchers there have built a similar doll based on the technology used for crash test dummies.

Kälvemark and his colleagues decided to build a doll filled with sand and plastic pellets. They used foam rubber to get the right texture.

The resulting doll has been named Mac, taking inspiration from a Big Mac.

"I don't know what McDonald's thinks about that," Kälvemark told The Local.

The hospital has already made reforms to accommodate Sweden's increasingly heavy population. Intensive care has added wider beds, while the sleep and respiration unit, which cares for many heavier patients, has made similar changes to its equipment.

The lung clinic has one room set aside for overweight patients where the bed and the lavatory facilities are both mechanized, so the staff can operate it without risking any strain injuries.

When it is still possible to lift the patient, staff will now know how to work in a team. They will also learn to make the beds with friction-reduced, satin-like sheets.

Equally important, Kälvemark adds, is to make sure the patients are treated with dignity.

"Many have felt that medical staff are condescending, so showing them respect is important," Kälvemark said.

Ann Törnkvist

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