As a physician you are held to incredibly high standards as to the type of care you provide and the measures you must take to keep patients safe.
But is your employer doing the same for you?
Like all employees in all industries, physicians run the risk of suffering ergonomic injuries in the workplace. These can range from mild to debilitating, and if they’re not addressed, the physician (and the patients that rely on them) can suffer consequences.
From identifying the root cause to improving equipment to encouraging time off from the job, here are five ways to prevent physician ergonomic injuries in a medical facility.
What Is an Ergonomic Injury?
Ergonomic injuries are those that cause prolonged use of or put prolonged pressure on a specific body part. Carpal tunnel syndrome from constant keyboard use, back pain from lifting heavy items, and neck pain from hunching over a laptop are amongst the most common ergonomic injuries that occur at work.
Yet physicians who don’t do any of these tasks routinely are also at risk of ergonomic pain due to musculoskeletal injuries.
Ergonomic injuries can result for a variety of reasons, such as making repetitive movements, working under harsh lighting conditions, or standing or sitting in an awkward position for an extended period of time.
The good news is that there are steps to take that can reduce the likelihood of a physician suffering an ergonomic injury in a medical facility.
1. Identify the Issue
Before you can address how to remedy ergonomic injuries you’ll need to identify what they are and determine what’s causing them.
Amongst physicians, it’s quite common for surgeons to suffer ergonomic injuries. Approximately two thirds of all orthopedic surgeons suffer a musculoskeletal injury during their career. This often takes the form of back pain, neck pain, rotator cuff injury, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
In order to prevent future injuries, identify what the most common injuries in your medical facility are so that you can put a plan in place to correct them.
2. Assess Your Equipment
Take a hard look at the equipment you’re using and how it might be affecting your physicians.
Are your patient tables so low that physicians have to put strain on their lower back to assess or operate on patients?
Are your chairs or keyboards from decades ago before ergonomic designs became the norm?
Are your desks and computers in a position that increases neck pain?
If outdated equipment is causing stress and pain in your physicians it’s time to update your equipment. .
3. Update Your Equipment
Medical facilities can reduce ergonomic injuries simply by investing in some new office furniture and exam room equipment.
Eye strain is a common ergonomic injury, and it can be alleviated just by changing up the type of bulbs you use in overhead lights and desk lights.
If lower back pain and neck pain are common in your medical facility it might be time to invest in height-adjustable tables or desk chairs.
For surgeons, replacing older surgical instruments with newer, more ergonomic options can provide more freedom of movement and reduce injuries such as hand pain, wrist pain, and numbness in the fingers.
4. Ensure Compliance With All OSHA Safety Standards
In addition to the standard safety measures that OSHA has in place for all medical facilities, they also recommend that physicians and healthcare professionals report musculoskeletal injuries early.
Early reporting encourages medical facilities to address the problem sooner rather than later, an important tool in making the necessary workplace adjustments and preventing further injuries from occurring.
5. Encourage Self-Care
Self-care is a broad concept, but there are three specific self-care practices that physicians can embrace to reduce and minimize the pain associated with ergonomic injuries:
- Taking breaks and vacation days
- Practicing yoga and doing regular exercise
- Getting professional massages
If there’s an element of your workplace that’s causing or exacerbating an ergonomic injury, taking time off is one of the best things you can do. This includes taking breaks throughout the day when you’re on the job and taking advantage of every vacation day and day off.
Regular physical exercise, including practicing yoga, can ease ergonomic injuries, especially those in the neck and lower back. With regular exercise, your body will be better equipped to withstand injuries.
Professional massages are another great way to relieve tension and muscle strain. Adding therapeutic massages to your self-care routine can relieve existing pain and stimulate nerve fibers to prevent you from feeling more pain in the future.
Protect Yourself With Disability Insurance
Many ergonomic injuries cause physicians to lose time at work, but severe ones can prevent you from doing your job altogether.
High income earning physicians should protect themselves and their future, unearned income with an individual disability insurance policy.
Disability insurance pays benefits when an illness or injury renders you unable to work. You can use the benefits to pay for anything and you can continue to earn approximately 60% of your paycheck, even if an injury prevents you from ever working another day.
If you haven’t yet protected your income with a disability insurance policy, read this guide to the Top Disability Insurance Companies for Physicians from Physicians Thrive to determine which insurance provider is the best option for you. .
Ergonomic workplace injuries are common, so it’s important to:
- Identify what’s causing the problem
- Assess and update equipment if need be
- Adhere to OSHA safety standards
- Make time for self-care
- Protect yourself with disability insurance
There’s no way to eliminate workplace injuries entirely, but there are many steps that medical facilities can take to reduce their likelihood.