At first glance, a hospital milk preparation room seems harmless. This specialized area dedicated to the storage and preparation of human milk for neonatal intensive care infants does not have any seemingly dangerous equipment with the potential to cause healthcare staff harm. Or does it?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reported in 2013 that hospitals have “6.8 work-related injuries and illnesses for every 100 full-time employees.” And surprisingly, the rate of injury for hospital healthcare professionals remained double the rate of private industry as a whole. That includes construction!
Healthcare worker injuries are a big issue to tackle, with many causes too vast to cover in one blog post. So today we’re looking at one contributing factor. It exists in that mild-looking milk preparation room. You know the one. Its users already know the secret hiding behind its gentle façade: potential for repetitive motion injury.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011) listed 54% of hospital injuries resulting in days away from work were from sprains and strains alone.
Related to this are repetitive motion injuries (or repetitive stress injuries, as they are sometimes called), which are “temporary or permanent injuries to muscles, nerves, ligaments, and tendons caused by doing the same motion over and over again.”
An example of repetitive motion injury is carpal tunnel syndrome. It occurs when the median nerve is compressed by swollen ligaments and tendons.
A few facts about carpal tunnel:
- Women are three times more likely to suffer from carpal tunnel than men
- Previous trauma or injury can contribute to the disorder
- The dominant hand is most commonly affected
- It can worsen without treatment
I know what you’re thinking. “Isn’t carpal tunnel from using a computer too much?” While computers are often suspects of carpal tunnel occurrence, so are other repetitious movements. More examples would be assembly work, or work requiring repetitive flexing of the wrist.
And another example: milk preparation room feeding prep. The repetitive motion of pulling on a syringe plunger to draw milk might not seem risky at first, but for those milk preparation rooms handling hundreds of enteral syringe feeds a day, the issue rapidly becomes clear.
How can repetitive motion in this case be mitigated? There are a few ways:
Use enteral syringes with easy-pull plungers
Some enteral feeding syringes have difficult-to-draw plungers. When combined with the action of pulling human milk into the syringe barrel, it can create a situation where wrists are more easily taxed by the repetitive motion. To avoid this, adopt enteral syringes that not only meet patient safety needs, but also your milk room technician needs: enteral syringes with a smooth and easy pull.
Schedule enteral feeding prep in intervals
Milk preparation rooms can be busy places, especially at large hospitals. NICU infants are being fed every three hours, and in some cases are on continuous feeds. While it might make sense to prepare syringe feeds in large batches, it also makes sense to protect your milk preparation room technicians from repetitive motion. Review your feed prep activities for ways to interject down time and reduce lengthy stretches of repetitive movement.
Your hospital milk preparation room is a hub of activity, with well-trained professionals who ultimately impact patient outcomes. But don’t forget their outcomes. Take steps to support your team’s overall long-term physical and career health. They’ll appreciate it more than you know.
- “Facts About Hospital Worker Safety.” OSHA, https://www.osha.gov/dsg/hospitals/documents/1.2_Factbook_508.pdf. Accessed 16 November 2016.
- “Repetitive Motion Injury.” Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library, http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/physical_medicine_and_rehabilitation/repetitive_motion_injury_85,P01176/. Accessed 16 November 2016.