When most people think of workplace ergonomics, they think of the office worker who sits 8 hours a day in front of a computer. And as studies show, ergonomics is very important in this type of office setting, both for reducing strain and improving productivity. While the 9-5 office worker is the poster child for the importance of ergonomics, what about those on their feet most of the day? And what about their customers?
Know that ergonomics in medical field applications is just as important, if not more important.
Research has proven that doctors, nurses, and other staff that work in an ergonomics-friendly environment reap the same benefits as conventional office workers. And since the quality of work done by hospital staffers can make the difference between life and death, any advantage that can be provided to them is essential. Here's a closer look at some of those benefits:
5 Benefits of Ergonomics in the Medical Field
The top five reasons to invest in medical ergonomic equipment and practices:
- Increases priority on patient comfort
- Makes long shifts easier to get through
- Reduces critical errors
- Improves efficiency
- Improves hospital ROI
1. Makes Patient Comfort Top Priority
While ergonomics tends to focus on the staff, a more ergonomic hospital environment is also great for patients. Patient handling is the No. 1 ergonomic issue in a hospital or other medical setting.
If you're working with poorly designed equipment, you could be doing more harm than good. Luckily, there are more medical ergonomic products than ever, and many are designed to take the burden of patients:
- Phlebotomy chairs
- Blood draw arm stands, which can swivel in front of patients
- Foot rest assemblies on chairs, to better support patients who need to get up
- Transfer arm chairs, which allow nurses and other staff members to easily move patients from one chair to another. This keeps the patient safe and reduces back strain for the staff.
These are just a few examples of how you can improve patient comfort in a medical center environment. Patients have higher expectations than ever for customer experience, and this mindset extends to health care situations.
2. Makes Long Shifts More Manageable
A career in a health care field usually means long, tiring shifts. Much of this time on the clock is spent walking, standing, or in poor posture.
Any opportunity to make shifts more comfortable is worth exploring. One way to facilitate this is the sit-stand desk mechanism. This way, those employees who are tied to their desks more than others can adjust posture in regular intervals. Experts recommend that employees change their posture every 30 minutes.
Comfortable, adjustable chairs are another worthwhile investment that have been covered exhaustively.
Remember, a comfortable and healthy employee is also a happier one — and happier employees tend to be much more productive (more on that in a bit).
3. Reduces Critical Errors
One ergonomic solution that benefits both nurse and patient is the computer cart on wheels.
Think of this as a desk on wheels: Doctors and nurses can wheel it right into the patient's room. They can easily take notes while discussing symptoms and treatments with the patient and then document the information as it's being communicated.
This sure beats speaking with a patient, then walking to an office (perhaps tens of minutes after the conversation) to document the data.
You can deck out a medical computer on wheels cart to include several ergonomic and safety features, including:
- A locking mechanism to keep patient data confidential
- CPU holders
- Mouse slider trays
- Keyboard trays
The biggest advantage of the computer cart on wheels is it's flexibility. Whether it's stored behind a reception desk or in a closet, it's easy to maneuver into the workspace. It even works in elevators!
4. Improves Efficiency
Health care workers are responsible for more patients than ever before -- sometimes with a shrinking staff size. Ergonomic accessories aren't just more convenient; they enable a higher level of efficiency as well.
Portable technology means fewer trips to the nurse’s station and back. Ergonomic wheelchair footrests make patient transfer much quicker. Shaving minutes off each task means staff can attend to more patients per hour.
And let’s not forget, time can also be the difference between life or death in a medical environment.
5. Improves ROI for the Hospital
Fancy equipment like an ergonomic tablet holder or customized computer on wheels may seem like an expensive luxury. You’d be wise to think beyond the up-front costs and look at the long-term savings.
Want an example of how a more ergonomic setting can truly improve a medical center's return on investment? Numerous studies say a more ergonomic environment directly leads to:
- Fewer staff injuries and worker's compensation payouts
- Fewer requests for time off
- Fewer patient-care mistakes that result in longer hospital stays or even legal action
- A more positive, productive environment -- and reduced employee turnover!
Ergonomics Should Be Taken Seriously
Good ergonomics help promote a culture of safety in any environment. But this culture is even more important in a hospital setting, where stakes and stress are ultra-high.
Don’t scoff at ergonomic products as a fad or a silly waste of money. They make the world a more healthy place -- for both employees and patients!
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in November, 2019 and has since been updated.