Three participatory ergonomics teams were implemented among the health care workers in a large medical center. The Employee Management Advisory Teams (EMATs) consisted of four to six members obtained from populations of orderlies, intensive care unit (ICU) nurses, and laboratory workers. Team members were trained in the areas of group work, ergonomics, and intervention strategies. EMAT Team Evaluation surveys were completed by team members on a quarterly basis in order to assess the effectiveness of the participatory approach. The observations of project advisors and the number of problems identified and solutions implemented were also used to evaluate the effectiveness of the teams. The initial results of the EMAT Team Evaluation surveys were generally positive. Upon follow up, perceptions of team effectiveness, effort, and support were improved among the members of the laboratory EMAT. In the orderly EMAT, perceptions of quality, effort, and communication were improved, while perceptions of resources were more negative at follow up, compared to the initial survey. Members of the nursing EMAT rated team support higher and quality, effort, and supervisor and maintenance support lower in the follow up survey than in the initial survey. The orderlies identified five problems and implemented three solutions. The ICU nurses identified five problems and at least partially implemented three solutions. The laboratory workers identified four problems but did not fully implement any solutions. Overall, the orderly and laboratory EMATs developed into successful, functional teams. The nursing EMAT suffered from time constraints, frequent interruptions, canceled meetings, poor maintenance support, and low morale. The authors conclude that EMATs may not be realistic for all health care workers, especially those involved in patient care. A multitiered approach may be necessary to ameliorate the work conditions which result in musculoskeletal problems among health care workers.
Dr. Paula C. Bohr, Program in Occupational Therapy, Washington University, School of Medicine, 4444 Forest Park Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63108