Health Care Workers Exposed to Greater Ergonomic Risks

The increased use of electronic medical records systems and digital records have raised the risk of medical errors, and enhanced patient safety.  However, it could have had one undesirable consequence.  Doctors, nurses and other medical staff who frequently use electronic systems could be at risk of repetitive stress injuries and musculoskeletal conditions.

According to new research, many hospitals adopting electronic medical record systems are doing so with no thought to the ergonomic issues involved, or the risks of repetitive stress injuries to staff like nurses who frequently use these records.  In many cases, hospital office layouts have been designed very poorly, with no thought to the risks involved.  Additionally, doctors and nurses have not been trained adequately about the right ways of using the computer devices and other systems.

The researchers asked 179 doctors about the frequency of computer use in the office, the severity of musculoskeletal discomfort, typing skills, and the awareness of the ergonomic hazards associated with such work.  They found that most of the doctors reported repetitive stress injuries like neck pain, upper and lower back pain as well as shoulder pain.

A majority of female physicians reported such symptoms, and more than 40% of males also reported that they suffered injuries on an almost weekly basis.  Wrist injuries were also very frequent, and approximately 40% of the males and 30% of the females in the study reported suffering these injuries at a high frequency.

A person who performs the same activity over long periods of time without a break, and without being trained to do these activities in a risk-free free manner, is at a high risk of suffering repetitive-stress injuries that can lead to long-term musculoskeletal conditions, like back and neck pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.