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Fighting Ebola: A Grand Challenge for Development – How NIOSH is Helping Design Improved Personal Protective Equipment for Healthcare Workers

Categories: Ebola, Emergency Response/Public Sector, Health care, International, Personal Protective Equipment

Figure 1. NIOSH sweating thermal manikin with the PPE ensemble commonly used by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) for high exposure areas. This PPE ensemble includes a TyChem C coverall (a type of limited-use Chemical Protective Coverall), a custom-made Tyvek hood with integrated surgical mask, rubber apron, respirator, googles, rubber gloves, and rubber boots.  Photo courtesy of NIOSH NPPTL.

Figure 1. NIOSH sweating thermal manikin with the PPE ensemble commonly used by Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders) for high exposure areas. This PPE ensemble includes a TyChem C coverall (a type of limited-use Chemical Protective Coverall), a custom-made Tyvek hood with integrated surgical mask, rubber apron, respirator, googles, rubber gloves, and rubber boots. Photo courtesy of NIOSH.

The current Ebola epidemic in West Africa is the largest in history and is unprecedented in many ways, including the large number of healthcare workers who have been infected while treating patients. The large scale of the epidemic, as well as the two healthcare workers who contracted Ebola while caring for the first case in the United States, has directed particular attention to the personal protective equipment (PPE) used by healthcare workers to reduce their risk of infection. PPE is designed to create a barrier to prevent pathogens from entering the body through the mucous membranes or broken skin. Examples of PPE used for Ebola include (but are not limited to) gloves, gown/coverall, mask/respirator, apron, faceshield/goggles, and cap/hood (see Figure 1). Reports from healthcare workers in West Africa indicate that some personnel are able to wear their PPE for only 40 minutes at a time because of the high ambient temperature and humid conditions. Even in the United States, where management of patients with Ebola is done in air-conditioned environments, uncomfortable PPE is a common complaint and causes additional burden for healthcare workers.

What Works Best to Prevent Stress Among Healthcare Workers: Changing the organization or educating staff?

Categories: Health care, Stress

 

HCstressOccupational Safety and Health (OSH) professionals have to make many decisions on a daily basis. These decisions can involve risk assessment methods, preventive workplace measures, workers’ health surveillance or even rehabilitation or return-to-work practices. According to the principles of evidence based practice, such decisions should be guided by high-quality scientific knowledge (van Dijk et al., 2010) such as provided by systematic reviews of the literature. The Cochrane Collaboration is internationally recognized as the leader in producing high quality systematic reviews about the effectiveness of health interventions. The Cochrane Collaboration is a not-for-profit organization with collaborators from over 120 countries working to produce credible, accessible health information that is free from commercial sponsorship and other conflicts of interest. Cochrane systematic reviews try to help with the decision-making process by synthesizing the results of multiple studies and finding out, for example, what are the best ways to protect workers against health risks and dangers that exist in the workplace. Cochrane systematic reviews seek answers to the most basic question: “does this intervention work?”

Prolonged Standing at Work

Categories: Ergonomics, Health care, Service Sector, Wholesale and Retail Trade

 

standingThe National Retail Federation forecasts that retailers and merchants will hire between 730,000 and 790,000 seasonal workers this holiday season.[i] Many of these workers, such as sales associates and cashiers, have little, if any, opportunity to sit during their work shift. Increasingly, workers across a variety of occupations are required to stand for long periods of time without being able to walk or sit during their work shift. For example, in operating rooms, nurses and doctors must stand for many hours during surgical procedures. In retail, sales associates spend a considerable amount of their work time standing without the ability to sit down.  Female associates who wear high heel shoes are at increased risk of developing musculoskeletal pain conditions.[ii] [iii]

NIOSH conducted a review of the literature to examine the risks of prolonged standing in the workplace. “Evidence of Health Risks Associated with Prolonged Standing at Work and Intervention Effectiveness” was published in Rehabilitation Nursing earlier in the year.[iv]  Based on the research reviewed, there appears to be ample evidence that prolonged standing in the work place leads to a number of negative health outcomes. The studies consistently reported increased reports of low back pain, physical fatigue, muscle pain, leg swelling, tiredness, and body part discomfort due to prolonged standing. There is significant evidence that prolonged standing at work (primarily in one place) increases risk of low back pain, cardiovascular problems, and pregnancy outcomes.

Work-family Conflict, Sleep, and the Heart

Categories: Cardiovascular Disease, Health care, Sleep, Total Worker Health

 

nursesleepHealth care workers represent an increasingly important and ever growing work force in our society. They are also a group of “high-risk workers” meaning they report a lot of musculoskeletal pain, work-related injuries and sleep deficiencies. In addition to this, many health care workers labor in rotating shifts, with little time in-between shifts, so it is no surprise that many of these workers also report scheduling difficulties between work and family. A large study on nurses from 2006 reported that they are concerned about their lack of time and energy when prioritizing family responsibilities and friends outside the workplace. Perhaps exacerbating this concern are increasing demands from a strained economy, the increasing number of single parents in the US, and the fact that health care workers often report working additional jobs – restricting this time even further.

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