Category Archives: Work environment

Apr 9 2014
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Obesity a Problem for Health Care Workers

The health care industry is not in the healthiest state when it comes to weight, according to a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Analyzing data from the 2010 National Health Interview Survey and adjusting for confounding factors such as race, gender, and smoking, researchers identified two industries—public administration (36%) and health care and social assistance (32%)—as having significantly higher-than-average obesity rates.

Long work hours and hostile work environments were among factors that contributed to higher obesity rates, researchers found. Within the health care industry, obesity rates were lower for health care practitioners and for workers in technical occupations than they were for health care support occupations (such as home health aides and nursing assistants), “suggesting that the impact of working conditions on obesity may be especially harmful for lower-income workers,” the researchers wrote.

Out of 20 industries in the study, real estate workers had the lowest obesity rate, at just under 20 percent.

Read the study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Mar 25 2014
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Unhappy Docs May Be a Side Effect of Health Care’s Focus on Efficiency

Has a push for increased efficiency in health care come at the expense of physicians’ happiness? That’s a big question explored recently in a Becker’s Hospital Review article.

Molly Gamble writes:

Physician stress and engagement issues were not born from reform.... But now other factors—such as increased workloads, electronic medical records and physicians’ apprehension to work for hospitals—add another layer of complexity. Healthcare’s pursuit of efficiency seems to be making the adoption of other values it endorses, such as patient-centeredness and continuity of care, more difficult.

Physicians’ interactions with coworkers and patients are changing, according to the article—and the learning curve for electronic medical records and other technological advances has left many physicians looking at screens more and patients less.

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Mar 19 2014
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New Charting Nursing’s Future Brief: Patient Safety Through Workplace Transformation

Ten years ago, a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) proposed a transformation of nurses’ workplaces, warning that “The typical work environment of nurses is characterized by many serious threats to patient safety.” The latest issue of the Charting Nursing’s Future policy brief series from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) focuses on how much has changed in the intervening years, and how much remains to be done.

The new brief identifies a series of initiatives designed by and for nurses that have “spurred the creation of work environments that foster health care quality and patient safety.” Among them:

  • The RWJF-backed Transforming Care at the Bedside (TCAB) initiative, developed in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, which seeks to empower frontline nurses to address quality and safety issues on their units, in contrast with more common, top-down improvement efforts. TCAB is now integrated with Aligning Forces for Quality (AF4Q), RWJF’s signature effort to improve the quality of health care and reduce disparities in targeted communities.

  • Another RWJF-backed project, Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN), focuses on nursing school faculty, and has helped prepare thousands teaching in graduate and undergraduate programs to integrate quality and safety competencies into nursing school curricula.

  • On the policy side, efforts have been made to further examine and improve the adequacy of nurse staffing. For example, a number of jurisdictions, including California, Illinois, Washington state, and Minnesota, have adopted standards that either require or encourage limits on how many patients a given nurse may be assigned to care for in acute care hospitals. Subsequent research has demonstrated an impact on hospital policies, but evidence of improvements in cost, quality, and safety is mixed so far.

  • A number of institutions, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville and The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, have taken aim at disruptive behavior and professional discourtesy in the workplace, noting that, given the growing importance of teamwork and collaboration, the consequences of such misbehavior can be “monumental when patients’ lives are at stake.”

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Mar 6 2014
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An Unhealthy Sign for Health Care Workers? Survey Says They’re the Most Stressed

Health care may have some of the nation’s most promising career opportunities. But it also promises a lot of stress to go along with those jobs, according to a survey from CareerBuilder and its health-care-focused website.

Health care workers topped the list of most stressed workers in the United States, with 69 percent reporting that they feel stress in their current jobs. Next are workers in professional and business services, retail, financial services, information technology, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing. Health care also had the highest percentage (17) of workers reporting that they are “highly stressed.”

“Stress is part of the environment in many health care settings, but high levels sustained over a long period of time can be a major detriment to employee health and ultimately stand in the way of providing quality care to patients,” CareerBuilder Healthcare President Jason Lovelace said in a news release.

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Feb 12 2014
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Adverse Working Conditions and Depression: A Strong Link

 Health & Society Scholars alumna Sarah A. Burgard, PhD (2003-2005). The study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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Human Capital Blog: How does your study differ from previous research exploring the link between adverse working conditions and depression?

Sarah Burgard: The main contribution of this study was in the way we measured working conditions. Most studies that have looked at adverse working conditions and depression, or other measures of health, have looked at one adverse working condition at a time, such as job strain, job insecurity, or job dissatisfaction. But every job comes with a whole package of working conditions. We felt that capturing multiple indicators at the same time might give us a truer sense of the size, the magnitude, and the power of the association between work and depression.

Also, while some previous studies relied on longitudinal data that included multiple interviews with workers over time, they often excluded workers who did not participate in every interview because those workers didn’t have a measure of the focal working condition at every possible interview. That’s a problem because people who have worse jobs are probably more likely to drop out of longitudinal studies or leave work. Our approach was different; we analyzed data from everyone who participated in at least one interview, using all possible working conditions measure collected at each wave. We created an “overall working conditions score” at each wave using item response theory models. As a result, were able to get a more representative picture.

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Feb 4 2014
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Dermatologists Are Happiest Specialists in Physician Lifestyle Report

In a survey of more than 31,000 U.S. physicians for Medscape’s 2014 Physician Lifestyle Report, dermatologists emerged as the specialists who are happiest both at home and at work. Seventy percent of dermatologists said they are very to extremely happy at home, slightly behind ophthalmologists. But at 53 percent, dermatologists topped the list by a considerable margin in reporting a high level of happiness at work.

Among the least happy specialists are family and emergency medicine physicians, with only 36 percent reporting great happiness at work, followed at 37 percent by internists and radiologists.

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Jan 28 2014
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Enhancing Safety of Hospital Workers Is Aim of New Federal Website

U.S. hospitals recorded 250,000 work-related injuries and illnesses in 2012, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and workers’ compensation expenses now reach $2 billion annually for hospitals. Lifting and moving patients, workplace violence, slips and falls, exposure to chemicals and hazardous drugs, exposure to infectious diseases, and needlesticks are among the serious hazards hospital workers face.

Fact books, self-assessments, and best practice guides are among the materials OSHA has assembled in a new Web resource, www.osha.gov/hospitals, designed to help hospitals prevent worker injuries, assess workplace safety needs, enhance safe patient handling programs, and implement safety and health management systems.

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Jan 14 2014
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Recent Research About Nursing, January 2014

This is part of the January 2014 issue of Sharing Nursing’s Knowledge.

Hush!!! Testing nurse-designed noise-reduction strategies for hospital wards

A common complaint of hospital patients is that just when their bodies need it the most, they can't get a good night's sleep because of noise and interruptions. A new initiative of three nurses at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston takes direct aim at the problem.

In response to patient satisfaction surveys that highlighted the problem of nighttime noise, Gina Murphy, BSN, RN, Anissa Bernardo, LCSW, and Joanne Dalton, PhD, RN, studied existing literature on the topic, developed a program they call Quiet at Night, and tested it on a 44-bed medical-surgical unit. The program includes a number of strategies for reducing noise, including closing doors at night when medically appropriate, supplying earplugs to patients, keeping patients by themselves in semi-private rooms when the census permits, using mini-flashlights when performing overnight checks to avoid turning on the lights, performing change-of-shift conversations in the break room rather than in hallways or at the nurses' station, providing headphones to patients who need the television on at night, and using beep-free keypads on doors. In addition, after 9 p.m., they implemented a number of “quiet hours” practices, including dimming lights, turning pagers to vibrate, avoiding overhead pages and hallway conversations, and more.

After implementing the strategies, the trio compared before and after surveys. In the three survey periods before the program, 43 to 47 percent of patients reported that their rooms were “always” quiet at night. After the program was in place, that jumped to 60 percent, which is the goal the nurses had set.

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Jan 7 2014
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On the Job and Facing Bias: Study Looks at Foreign-Educated Nurses

Historically, the United States has relied on the recruitment of foreign-educated nurses (FENs) to fill gaps caused by widespread nursing shortages. Yet many FENs face unequal treatment on the job, according to a new study by researchers at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services (SPHHS).

Forty percent of FENs, defined in the study as immigrants who are in the United States to work in hospitals and other health care facilities, say their wages, benefits, or shift assignments are inferior to those of their U.S.-born colleagues. The findings, which appear in the January issue of the American Journal of Nursing, suggest that FENs recruited by staffing agencies and from impoverished countries are especially vulnerable to potentially discriminatory treatment.

Lead author Patricia Pittman, PhD, an associate professor of health policy at SPHHS, called the findings “alarming” in a news release. Pittman added that “if confirmed by additional research, this survey raises a host of troubling ethical and practical concerns for health care facilities working to retain nursing staff and provide high-quality care to patients.”

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Nov 12 2013
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Recent Research About Nursing, November 2013

This is part of the November 2013 issue of Sharing Nursing's Knowledge.

Creating Healthy Workspaces for Older Nurses

The nursing workforce is aging, in part because the nation's economic difficulties have prompted some nurses to delay retirement. A new literature review by Jaynelle Stichler, DNSc, NEA-BC, FACHE, of the San Diego State University School of Nursing, examines ways hospital work environments might be fine-tuned to help older nurses navigate the health challenges associated with their physically demanding work. The article was published online on October 17 by the Journal of Nursing Management.

Noting that Centers for Disease Control & Prevention data indicate that older workers' on-the-job injuries tend to be more severe than those suffered by younger workers, Stichler offers recommendations culled from 25 separate studies conducted since 2002. They include:

  • Ergonomic seating and countertops with the correct height for charting tables, and adequate space for keyboards, in order to prevent strains caused by working in improper body positions;
  • Adequate lighting and non-slip floor surfaces to reduce the risk of falling;
  • Decentralized linen, equipment, and supply storage in or near patient rooms, and decentralized nursing stations, in order to diminish walking distances;
  • Electrical and medical gas outlets placed on either side of the patients' beds and at an easily accessible height, rather than behind or above the head of the bed, so that nurses won't have to strain to plug in equipment;
  • Enhanced task lighting options over beds or on swing arms to ease eye strain and help nurses with visual acuity problems; and
  • Barrier-free patient bathroom and shower designs, with floor drains and shower curtains, so nurses needn't use towels to mop up water.

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