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Promoting Better Ergonomics in the NICU – An Additional Role for Neonatal Therapists?

Ergonomic Photo

Every workplace has a unique set of repetitive tasks. The NICU is no exception. As therapists we know that repetitive tasks without the support of a great ergonomic design, lead to repetitive injuries.

Many of you, like me, have been asked over the years to help NICU coworkers with neck pain, tendonitis, and back pain. I’ve released many a trigger point in a NICU coworker – especially in those upper traps and rhomboids from years of having forearms in an incubator while looking ‘down’ at patients. Some incubator designs support us more than others.

And I’ve consulted my friend, a great CHT, regarding the best treatment for ‘tennis elbow’ (i.e. from years of manipulating and taping tiny instruments without adequate proximal support) to make sure recommendations haven’t changed.

These are ‘unofficial’ consults for us – and we’re glad to help.

What I want us to consider is this – how can we help on a bigger scale?

How can we help design a better space for NICU staff? What about all that time spent computer charting – are our rolling workspaces ergonomically designed? Should the engineers that design everything from suction catheters to incubators consider consulting OTs and PTs who know how to assess real life workspace?

And let’s not forget the chairs we sit in for sometimes hours a day while we feed babies.

(Admittedly it took me quite a while to realize that the way I sat when I fed babies – no stool under my feet because the stools were too high – led to raging plantar fasciitis. My short self in our large reclining chairs was not a great fit ergonomically!)

Some of you already do this for your NICU. I know you’re out there! Consider what that would look like on a bigger scale.

Big changes start with simple ideas.

Lead the charge.

"Ergonomic Recommendations for the NICU" – Sounds like a great presentation for the 2013 Conference – just sayin.