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Healthcare workers at risk of repetitive stress injuries

The healthcare industry employs many workers, from doctors and nurses to lab technicians and receptionists. All of the roles are important. Yet some jobs are more dangerous than others in terms of suffering workplace injuries.

A new concern involves repetitive stress injuries and electronic medical records. In some ways, that sounds like an odd paring. But in two recent research publications, an ergonomics professor from Cornell University contends that medical offices are poorly designed to accommodate computers. This could lead to many repetitive stress injuries among doctors and nurses as electronic health records become the norm.

The professor, Alan Hedge, says many hospitals are investing in new computer technology without properly assessing the ergonomic impact on the people who will be using those computers. Some of those workers may need to rely on workers' compensation to help them after suffering injuries due to repetitive strain.

In a sense, society has seen this movie before. After computers became common in commercial workplaces in the 1980s, there was an upsurge in musculoskeletal injuries for at least a decade. The same pattern could be about to happen in the medical field, now that electronic medical records are becoming more common.

What type of musculoskeletal injuries are employees at risk of experiencing? They include wrist injuries, back pain and neck injuries. In Prof. Hedge's research, more than 40 percent of the healthcare employees he studied suffered such symptoms.

The upshot of the research is clear. Workplace safety for medical professionals should not only include efforts to prevent falls and handle patient safety. It should also include an awareness of the effect of increased computer use on the human body.

Source: "Health Care Workers Face Ergonomic Challenges," EHS Today, 12-26-12

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Maryland workplace injuries page.

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