Ergonomics in Nursing

Picture of Mark Schall, PhD

Mark Schall, PhD

University of Iowa

Picture of Nate Fethke, PhD

Nate Fethke, PhD

University of Iowa

Inertial Measurement Units as a Tool for Simultaneous Worker Health Protection and Promotion

Nursing is a physical job, and nurses report a high prevalence of occupational injury. In an effort to improve work conditions, hospitals have been moving away from a total patient care model, where a single nurse is assigned to several patients located throughout the hospital, to a pod model, where nurses work as a team in a single area of the hospital. While pod models have resulted in improved patient access, professional communication, and job satisfaction among nursing personnel, the effects of pod nursing on nurses’ exposure to physical risk factors, work-related fatigue, and physical activity have not been explored.

Mark Schall, former trainee in the NIOSH funded Heartland Education and Research Center, and Nathan Fethke, professor of Occupational and Environmental Health, received funding to examine the health impacts of the pod approach on nurses. They outfitted nurses with inertial measurement devices that measured their working posture and physical activity. Their research suggests that while pod nursing may be helpful for improving patient care and job satisfaction, it does not result in less physical risks for nurses. Nurses in both job assignment models have similar job demands and risks. These results can be used to guide ergonomics training guidelines and wellness programs for nurses.