Being a radiologic technologist is a physically demanding profession. Day in, day out, we help patients on and off examination tables, in and out of wheelchairs and stretchers, and move patients into position for a variety of examinations. These physical, repetitive movements can cause injuries. Fortunately, some medical imaging systems have ergonomic features that can help reduce these injuries suffered by technologists. I believe it is important for imaging facilities to consider these features when evaluating new equipment.
I have been a practicing technologist for 11 years, primarily doing general X-ray exams. During this time, I’ve worked at four hospitals (two of them Level 1 trauma), a correctional facility, three imaging centers and two urgent care facilities. Although the sites and exam types may vary, the shoulder, wrist and back injuries suffered by radiologic technologists are similar. Also, a study of 401 American Society of Radiologic Technologists members found that more than half (251, 62.6%) experienced occupational injuries, with the majority of those being muscular injuries (205, 81.7%). (1)
Ergonomic features of DRX-Revolution help reduce injuries.
Back injuries are often the result of physically moving a patient: from examination table to wheelchair, wheelchair to an exam table or standing position and then repeating these movements in reverse. Fortunately, the increased use of bedside imaging for general X-ray eliminates these steps.
However, moving mobile imaging systems that weigh in excess of 1,000 pounds and maneuvering them through crowded hospital corridors and cramped ICU rooms has its own challenges. I’ve worked with several mobile imaging systems and in my experience, the most ergonomic-friendly system is the Carestream DRX-Revolution Mobile X-ray System. My initial experience with it was as a first-year graduate student. At the time, it was the only mobile X-ray system that had a collapsible column, and I thought, “wow, this is amazing.” During my education, I’d heard numerous stories about technologists accidentally running into objects and people because they did not have a clear and safe line of sight during transportation.
Minimizing movements that can cause injury.
Busy elevators and hallways are not the only potential hazards. Maneuvering the system in to place in a cramped area in the ICU, ER, or OR can require considerable effort pushing and pulling on the system. If you’ve ever worked the early morning ICU shift, you know the demands of executing multiple chest X-rays within the tight confines of ICUs. All this pushing and pulling causes a lot of wear and tear on the body. At every hospital I worked, there was always at least one tech who had a shoulder or rotator cuff injury that required surgery.
The easy and smooth movement of the DRX-Revolution helps reduce the possibility of injuries incurred from repeatedly moving a mobile system in to place. I can literally push it with a finger. It also has remarkable maneuverability – you can make a 360-degree turn with little effort.
Another beneficial feature of the DRX-Revolution is the agility of the column – it is flexible enough for a 90-degree turn. This maneuverability allows us to do more exams at the bedside, like cross-table laterals, that would otherwise require us to bring a patient to an X-ray room – and undergo all the physical movements involved in that transport.
The newest version of the DRX-Revolution has additional features that minimize bending and lateral movements. These include the elevated placements of the detector bin and the power cord located near the top of the cart. It also has a smaller, lighter tube head with better balance that is easy to control.
Another injury triggered by repetitive motions is the handling of a detector . Many detectors weigh about seven pounds or more. When doing bedside chest exams, we frequently hold the detector in one hand while using the other hand to position the patient. I remember hearing an unsettling ‘pop’ from a co-worker’s wrist as she placed a detector behind a patient. I got pretty excited when I heard that Carestream now offers the glass-free Lux 35 Detector that weighs almost two pounds less than traditional detectors. And with an ergonomic design and built-in finger grips, it makes positioning the detector much easier.
Supporting the night shift skeleton crew.
Top-of-the-line ergonomic features that help reduce injury are especially valuable for the night shift where you usually have a skeleton crew, possibly as small as one fifth of the daytime staffing level. Generally, the smaller staff means that each technologist is completing more examinations – and doing more movements that have the potential to cause injury. The absence of colleagues who are recovering from injuries puts additional stress and physical demands on the remaining staff.
I hope this perspective from a former radiologic technologist makes more facilities aware of the importance of evaluating ergonomic features of medical imaging equipment. Reducing the physical demands and potential for injuries can help improve not only a technologist’s health but also their job satisfaction which has the potential to reduce staff turnover. In addition, the time savings enabled by these same features may help improve productivity – another metric that is important to radiology administrators.
This article was originally published on Carestream’s Everything Rad blog: Reducing Injuries in Radiologic Technologists