Sterile processing (and instrument reprocessing departments in general) has identified ergonomics to be an important part of successful department operations. Ergonomics is essentially the effort of fitting the job to the person, which means taking into consideration the tools and instruments of work for the comfort and safety of the user. It is a critical element with far reaching impact for those who work in sterile processing.
It’s understandable to believe ergonomics is used primarily to reduce occurrence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). After all, bending, pulling, and lifting in the workplace can have lasting negative health impacts. And no team leader wants injuries to happen on their watch.
But there are actually several reasons above and beyond injury for making ergonomics a priority in your department and for your teams. One of them is employee satisfaction. Your sterile processing department (SPD) technicians or gastroenterology (GI) nurses are under tremendous physical strain every day to get their job done properly. It’s important to identify and obtain the right equipment that not only helps them get the job done well, but also supports their physical needs to stay safe and injury-free. By doing so, you support their needs and demonstrate a clear focus on their physical comfort. That leads to on-the-job satisfaction.
Most industries and businesses today have a high-level goal to create a culture of employee engagement and support. And SPD and GI are no different. Specific equipment can make all the difference:
- Height adjustable sinks and workstations
- Ergonomic wrist rests
- Anti-fatigue mats for standing
- Adjustable storage shelves for easy reach
- Flushing tools to reduce repetitive motion
Departments with a focus of fitting the job and its equipment to the technician will find many benefits beyond reducing staff injuries:
Reduce days away from work
Absenteeism will occur when SPD technicians or GI nurses experience injury on the job. They need time to recover or perhaps even added time off for physical therapy treatment. The department will experience backlog risk as a result. The pain of injury and missed working days can also cause employee anxiety. Considering employee physical needs for arduous tasks will reduce such injury risk, keeping your department better staffed and your employees healthier and happier with their work.
Improve quality outcomes
Poor quality outcomes can result when staff are uncomfortable during performance of work. Straining to lift or working on a too-low or too-high work surface or having to stop work to reach necessary accessories are a few examples. Such discomfort can drive technicians to rush through tasks. As we all know, rushing leads to poor quality outcomes and will circumvent the purpose of the SPD. Implementing proper equipment that is adjustable and suits the physical needs of the technician or nurse can improve quality outcomes by eliminating staff discomfort.
Employee satisfaction is an enormous factor in retaining quality talent. You work hard to ensure your team has the best technicians or nurses to prevent hospital-acquired infections with ideal reprocessing performance. But what happens when the equipment contributes to injury and discomfort? There is a risk of losing such talent to other facilities that do prioritize ergonomics for their technicians. Providing an environment clearly dedicated to employee health and improved departmental outcomes will keep SPD and GI staff more comfortable and satisfied with their working environment.
Ergonomics has incredible potential to transform a sterile processing department with efficiencies and reduction of technician injury. The benefits don’t stop there. Employees will be more physically comfortable with their tasks and ultimately more satisfied with their jobs and workplaces. Such satisfaction can add immeasurable positives to a department tasked with improving patient outcomes and reducing infection risk.
Looking for more on this topic? Read Ergonomic Guidance for SPD Injury Prevention and Productivity.