Push me, pull you: Reducing injuries in the ORs
Focused effort helps prevent harm to Perioperative Technicians
When nurse managers in the operating rooms at University Hospital, Mott Children’s Hospital and the Cardiovascular Center discovered that perioperative technicians (PTs) were suffering on-the-job injuries more often, they called upon UMHHC Safety Management Services for help.
"Repetitive lifting and moving of patients, heavy equipment and instrumentation is responsible for numerous muscle strains and back injuries among health care providers," says Heather Mlynczyk, allied health associate supervisor, University Hospital Operating Rooms. "The nature of the perioperative technicians’ role places them at risk for repeated - and potentially disabling - injury."
Perioperative technicians are responsible for moving gurneys (with and without patients on them) and equipment to and from operating rooms as well as performing numerous other tasks to prepare operating rooms for surgery. The Health System employs approximately 55 PTs.
Ergonomic Specialist Jacqueline Eckert used a wide range of resources such as video, photographs and surveys of PTs in action to uncover safety issues. She then collected metrics to see how much force was needed to push or pull the amount of weight being carried to respective distances.
"We thoroughly studied the risk factors and worked with all the PTs," says Eckert.
Interestingly, two components stand out: the weight of patients is increasing, and a new Mott OR storage unit located near carpeted hallways increased the amount of push/pull required when moving equipment to and from the OR.
"As a result of their observations and measurements, we were able to provide management with the data needed to obtain funds to replace the flooring, thus providing a safer and more ergonomic environment." says Elaine Abbondanza, R.N., nursing supervisor, UMH Operating Room-Mott.
In addition, Eckert and her team developed a mandatory training program for all PTs to educate them about risk factors and safer ways to do their jobs.
It is too early in the project to predict annual statistics, but the most recent data show that there has been a significant reduction in strain injuries.
"The PTs’ jobs are inherently full of risk," Eckert says. "We haven’t taken away all the risk, but we have provided a lot of injury prevention guidelines and a multi-faceted approach to keeping PTs safer."
"Knowledge is key to the prevention of injury," says Mlynczyk. "This project has opened the door to understanding the challenges we face in protecting our employees, and my hope is that through this study we can begin to identify additional steps to keep them safer."
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