Ergonomics in Healthcare – Tips to Prevent Workplace Injuries!

    It’s no secret that a career in the healthcare field is demanding.  It can be demanding mentally and emotionally, and it can certainly be demanding physically as well.  Too often, with all the physical tasks that come with the job, nurses and caregivers become injured at work.  These workplace injuries put extreme limitations not only on your day to day job tasks, but on your life outside of work as well.  In fact, they can also lead to ongoing health issues and discomfort down the road.  Make your health and safety a top priority while caring for others, and use these helpful tips from our friends at Liberty Insurance Agency along the way!

    It is a well-established fact that many of the tasks you perform as a healthcare worker put you at an increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders, which can result in pain and lost time at work.  Listing or repositioning patients, repetitive tasks, and standing for more than four hours can contribute to these painful and debilitating disorders. When you begin to develop an injury, the pain may be localized (isolated to one spot) or it may migrate from place to place. It might be a burning pain, a sharp stabbing pain, or a dull ache that doesn’t go away.

    Common Musculoskeletal Disorders

    Musculoskeletal disorders can affect muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, nerves, and blood circulation. The most common pains come from strains in the neck, lower back, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, and eyes, but they can appear in the lower body. The way we work with patients and move our bodies contributes to various disorders.

    Maintaining Flexibility and Strength

    One main factor that contributes to strains is beginning to work without properly warming up; do not force your body to move in ways that it is not ready to move. There is real value in practicing some basic stretching and strengthening exercises to prepare your body for work. Dedicating a few minutes to these exercises can be extremely beneficial in the long run and could even save your job.

    Doing simple exercises that improve your strength and endurance may help you avoid ergonomic injury. When you participate in aerobic or strength programs, you prepare your muscles for exertions on the job. Furthermore, simple stretching exercises can help you avoid problems during the day. Your neck can be stretched gently from side to side and then from front to back. Stretch your back while sitting in a chair by bending your chin toward your knees. Stretch your arms and legs by reaching over your head and then touching your toes.

    Lifting Techniques

    When you are lifting or transferring a patient, always use any patient handling equipment that is available to you. Fit, young staff members are more likely to become injured because they overestimate their ability to lift patients without assistance. If you can, adjust the height of patients’ beds before caring for them. If you can, make use of shower chairs, toilet seat risers, and technical lift equipment. When you do not have patient-handling tools, try to lift patients with your legs and never with your back.

    One final thought on lifting – back belts do not allow you to lift extra weight and they may cause more trouble than they are worth if they cause you to ignore proper lifting principles. Using the correct lifting procedure – not simply strapping on a back belt – is the best way to avoid back injuries when lifting.

    Choosing the Right Shoes

    Standing for long periods of time can put you at risk for pain in your feet and joints. Be sure to wear comfortable, cushioned shoes that grip your heel and support your arch. Avoid flats or heels over two inches, and make sure the shape of your shoe does not change the shape of your foot (as in pointed toes). Never purchase shoes for the job that pinch or inhibit your feet in any way.

    Simple Steps to Avoid Stress

    Much has been said about taking action against cumulative trauma disorders, repetitive motion injuries and other ergonomic problems. While Harmony will do its best to provide the tools you need to stay injury-free, you must do your part to avoid injury, too. One of the best ways to do this is to recognize that muscles need rest every now and then.

    As you work, periodically take breaks to stretch and rest your muscles. If you are sitting, stand up and stretch. If you have been standing for long periods of time, sit down and stretch your back out again. If you can, change the type of task you work on after a period of time to give one set of muscle groups a rest while using the others. Sometimes a little common sense can go a very long way in reducing your risk of pain and lost pay.

    Final Thoughts

    If you think you might have symptoms of a musculoskeletal disorder, or if you would like ergonomic issues in your work area reviewed, remember to bring this information to your supervisor’s attention. Harmony Home Healthcare is very interested in providing you with tools you need to work without pain. If you have questions regarding your work area, please speak up.

    Harmony is founded with a single focus in mind: providing compassionate home care and home healthcare to the residents of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

    Our trustworthy caregivers are ready to lend a helping hand to your mother, father, children, and loved ones in Somerset County, Westmoreland County, Fayette County, and many more locations throughout the region. Contact us and one of our patient advocates will be happy to discuss how Harmony's programs can help your family today.


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