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Role of Ergonomics in Improving Nurse Satisfaction and Patient Care

March 10th, 2022
Role of Ergonomics in Improving Nurse Satisfaction and Patient Care

Nurses are more susceptible to developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) than almost any other health professional. Patient handling, ill-designed workstations, and poor ergonomics can increase the risk of developing cumulating trauma disorders (CTDs) among nurses.  This can turn into MSD as a result of seemingly harmless repetitive motions over long periods of time.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, musculoskeletal disorders is the leading cause of nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses resulting in days away from work.

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Nurses and computer workstations
Nurses and computer workstations

With the digitization of patient records, nurses spend an estimated 20% of their time per shift at standing workstations.

Hence, it is paramount that the workstations are designed with ergonomic features to help reduce injuries such as MSD and CTDs.

Patient-nurse-machine interaction is one of the priorities in nursing informatics research, and a lot of work has gone int. improving the ergonomics of computer workstations.

Some of the common MSDs that can result from poor ergonomics of a computer workstation for nurses can cause:

  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Strained muscles
  • Tendonitis
Features that can improve the ergonomics of computer workstation

Adjustable height

One of the essential features of a computer workstation is height adjustability. An ergonomically designed workstation should allow the user to easily adjust the height without the exertion of lifting or lowering. Eyes should roughly align with the top of the screen, and forearms should be in line with the hands during typing.  A slight backward tilt on the keyboard often helps a user achieve this proper wrist alignment.

Secondary to adjustable height but also important is keyboard/screen vertical spacing and the ability to adjust eye-to-screen spacing.  This is worth considering, but should be weighed against the realities of how many users will access the workstation, and the limited time they may spend making these finer adjustments.  These dimensions vary much less than standing height from person-to-person, so are not as critical.

Workspace

A nurse needs to accomplish various tasks at the workstation, and it is essential to have an adequate workspace to complete the tasks. A workstation with too little workspace might force the user to carry out awkward maneuvers that can put an undue strain, increasing the risk of an injury. Also, stored items should be easily reachable with minimal bending down required.

Maneuverability and wheels

Mobile workstations and medical carts are not stationary pieces of equipment; they need to be moved from one part of the building. Long hours spent pushing, pulling, or maneuvering a cart can lead to musculoskeletal damage. Hence, it is essential to have a cart designed with height-adjustable handles that improve maneuverability. The Cornell University computer cart ergonomic checklist calls for the handle height between 35 to 45 inches from the ground to offer the best ergonomics while moving.    

Large caster wheels can maneuver over irregularities and debris, over thresholds, in and out of elevators. Also, caster wheels require less force to set them in motion and offer excellent control.

Weight of the cart

Weight is yet another critical factor that can impact the ergonomics of a computer workstation on wheels. If the cart is too light, it might not offer the right balance when going over uneven surfaces.

If the cart is too heavy, it might require a higher force to set it in motion. Hence, the weight of the cart should be sufficient to allow good control and direct the slightest effort to move.

The AccessPoint™ workstation on wheels from TouchPoint Medicals allows the nurses to quickly raise, tilt, swivel or rotate the monitor to find the perfect angle. It is also available with an electric lift option that offers a genuinely ergonomic design. Our medical carts meet Cornell University's 35-point ergonomic checklist.

To conclude

Ergonomics plays a vital role in improving the work conditions and job satisfaction of nursing staff. Hospitals and healthcare institutions must evaluate nurse workstations for proper ergonomics. The NSEA tool developed by Choobineh et al. can be a good starting point to start the assessment.

Contact our experts for a free demo of our ergonomically designed computer workstations-on-wheel and other specialty medical carts.