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 other professionals who are on their feet most of the day? And what about their customers?
Those working in the medical field know the joys of being on their feet most of a shift. While eventually there’s a certain level of stamina gained from standing most of the workday, when you sit down, there’s no mistaking that you spent your shift on two feet.
While workers in all industries – be it the accountant at a large firm or a construction worker at a busy job site – benefit from ergonomics, ergonomics in medical field applications is just as important, if not more important.
Ergonomics in the Medical Field
In this article, we’ll look at the top benefits of ergonomics in the medical field, which include:
What is Ergonomics in Healthcare?
To an extent, there’s a misconception about what is ergonomics in healthcare.
In considering the question, it might be natural to think that ergonomics in healthcare is patient-centric. That it’s making sure a patient has equipment or furnishings that are designed to reduce strain or the chance of getting hurt.
The answer is much simpler and it’s no different than in any other line of work – it’s providing medical professionals with tools and equipment that are designed to work with them and prevent injury.
Research has proven that doctors, nurses, and other medical 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.
5 Benefits of Ergonomics in the Medical Field
Ergonomics in healthcare facilities go a long way toward improving both the medical caregiver’s and medical care recipient’s overall experience. And the benefits of ergonomics in the medical field don’t discriminate – ergonomics in nursing are just as important as ergonomics for doctors and ergonomics for all healthcare workers.
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 # 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 healthcare situations.
2. Makes Long Shifts More Manageable
A hospital job usually means long hours. Much of this time on the clock is spent walking, standing, or in poor posture. This level of strain on the body over the course of weeks, months, and even years can contribute to burnout – something many medical professionals experience.
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 as are ergonomic keyboard trays – both of which have been covered exhaustively. Even multi-monitor setups can make a world of difference and improve efficiency (more on that later).
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.