From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Problems with 12 Hr Nursing Shifts; Pharmacy Ergonomics; Older Workers; Multi-Touch Interfaces

Study Reveals Widespread Fatigue, Risk for Errors With 12-Hour Nursing Shifts

We’ve published numerous articles detailing the effects of extended shift work or night work, and the general consensus is that there is a price to pay in terms of productivity, error making and health and safety. This new literature review study focuses in on the 12 hour shift common in the nursing profession. There are two sides to the issue: protecting nurses, and protecting the patients they serve:

A common practice of successive 12-hour shifts for U.S. hospital nurses leaves many with serious sleep deprivation, higher risk of health problems, and more odds of making patient errors, according to a University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB) study …

The 12-hour shift trend started in the 1970s and 1980s when there were nursing shortages, said Jeanne Geiger-Brown, PhD, RN, associate professor with the School of Nursing at UMB. Hospitals started giving nurses more benefits and bonuses, eventually leading to emphasis on 12-hour shifts, negotiated by the nursing profession, while hospitals saw that the change made nurses happy and bought into it, she said.

Most recent studies cited in the article point to an increase in patient care errors related to successive 12-hour shifts. Geiger-Brown cites one study of 393 nurses on 5,317 shifts who were surveyed anonymously. The odds of making errors by those who reported working more than 12 hours in shifts was three times greater than nurses who reported working 8.5-hour shifts. Experiencing partial sleep deprivation chronically, over many years, is dangerous to the nurses’ health and to the patients. The most common problems with an over emphasis on 12-hour shifts are needle-stick injuries, musculoskeletal disorders, drowsy driving, and other health breakdowns related to sleep deprivation.

Read the full article …


40 years behind the pharmacist’s bench can be a real pain in the neck

I enjoy seeing people who have no background in ergonomics begin to recognize that there are significant benefits to what we do. Pharmacist Jim Plagakis reflects on ergonomics, or the lack thereof, in the pharmacies he’s worked in for 40 years. He describes a permanent postural condition that evolved from the way he cradled the phone between his neck and shoulder. Writing in, Jim says:

There is actually an International Ergonomics Association. The mission is to design workplaces that contribute to comfort, efficiency, safety, and increased productivity. Not very many of you will argue when I speculate that the substantial budgets for building new pharmacies have nothing earmarked for ergonometric issues

It is unfortunate for Walmart that pharmacists and technicians do not come in a standard size. Say 5 feet 8 inches. They could situate the computer screens at an ergonomically advantageous position. The problem is that a tiny pharmacist works at the local Walmart. She always looks as if she is working on tippy-toes. I said, "Hello, Helen," the other day and she had to stretch way up to see me over the computer screen. Why not adjustable screens?

Read the full article …


Engineer Diana Schwerha examines how ergonomics can improve the lives of older people in the workplace and home

If you aren’t an ‘older worker’ now, you will be some day — if you’re lucky! Here’s a reference to some work from Ohio University researcher Diana Schwerha.

Diana Schwerha knows that people think ergonomics is just about posture: Sitting up straight at your computer desk so your back doesn’t ache. Holding your hands correctly as you type so you don’t get carpal tunnel syndrome. But, as it turns out, it’s much more than that.

“Ergonomics is all about compatibility,” she says. “It’s the compatibility between job demands and an individual’s abilities. We seek to reduce the risk of injury, improve worker performance, and increase user satisfaction and happiness. A good intervention does all of that.”

One focus of Schwerha’s work is improving working conditions for older workers and retaining older workers on the job …

She shares some interesting insights, including:

Older workers are valuable because they are the institutional memory of any organization, Schwerha says. They also can be more efficient than younger workers, she explains: “Older workers might be able to do in 25 hours what younger workers would take 40 hours to do.”

Schwerha and colleagues recently conducted a study that found that older workers were less likely than younger workers to leave their jobs, mainly because they like their jobs. However, being short-staffed and having to endure time pressures, stress, and loss of control made older workers more likely to quit.

“I believe this is because they realize the (dangerous) implications of employees being rushed or understaffed,” Schwerha says. The study also identified risk factors that make workers of all ages physically and mentally tired, which affects employee and client safety.

Read the full article …


Study looks at potential effects of multi-touch devices

Just minutes ago I used an iPad for the first time. I’ve reviewed the experiences of others several times in Ergonomics Today™ articles, but until now had no first-hand experience. There has been a great deal of speculation about the ergonomics of the iPad, and the ergonomics of the touch screen usability in general, both phyhsical and cognitive. Here’s an announcement describing a research grant that will delve into the physical ergonomics of multi-touch devices:

The evolution of computer systems has freed us from keyboards and now is focusing on multi-touch systems, those finger-flicking, intuitive and easy-to-learn computer manipulations that speed the use of any electronic device from cell phones to iPads. But little is known about the long-term stresses on our bodies through the use of these systems.

Now, a team of researchers led by Kanav Kahol of ASU is engaged in a project to determine the effects of long-term musculoskeletal stresses multi-touch devices place on us. The team, which includes computer interaction researchers, kinesiologists and ergonomic experts from ASU and Harvard University, also are developing a tool kit that could be used by designers when they refine new multi-touch systems.

“When we use our iPhone or iPad, we don’t naturally think that it might lead to a musculoskeletal disorder,” said Kahol, an assistant professor in ASU’s Department of Biomedical Informatics. “But the fact is it could, and we don’t even know it. We are all part of a large experiment. Multi-touch systems might be great for usability of a device, but we just don’t know what it does to our musculoskeletal system.”

Read the full article …