Work-related musculoskeletal disorders in prosthetics and orthotics

Sarah Anderson, who is a PhD student at the Centre for Ergonomics and Human Factors, recently competed in the Faculty finals for the 3 minute thesis competition. In this competition students are asked to present one slide and speak about their PhD research all in the space of only three minutes.

This is the text from Sarah’s 3MT presentation:

When people ask about what the research for my PhD entails I’m drawn into an enthusiastic rendition of my subject area P&Os and WMSDs which doesn’t mean that I am spending my PhD cruising the pacific or working with weapons of mass destruction rather Prosthetists and Orthotists so people who make artificial legs, arms splints and braces and work related musculoskeletal injuries sprain, strains and breaks in an area of the body. So basically what I am researching is how, people who make artificial arms, legs and splints and braces get injured at work, how often this happens and what the effect of this is.

We know that people who working the medical fields whether its nurses, physios, or OT’s get injured at work. In fact, statistically they get injured at about twice the rate of most other professions. We also know that these injuries often cause people to change their job or leave the profession they were working in. There has been a significant amount of money spent attempting to remedy this statistic the implementation of compulsory manual handling training in workplaces but these injuries are still occurring at a similar rate.. It has been suggested that this is due to the fact that all these programs focus on the physical nature of these injuries and ignores the psychosocial factors that are clearly linked to work place injuries.

So we know lots of things about work injuries in health care. We know that there are policies in place that statistical data has been gathered and funding has been linked to prevention programs. We however, we don’t know much about P&O. We don’t know if P&Os get injured at lower higher or the same rates as other health professionals and if they do get injured how that impacts upon them in their lives and workplaces. Anecdotally it appears that P&Os get injured but there is not data to support this.

We know that P&O is a weird job it’s a technical clinical mix that doesn’t fit well into the health care system P&Os can spend the day moving between surgical theatre, hospital wards, in the community and working on a ban saw and grinder in the workshop. Secondly, We also know that there are not enough P&Os in Australia to fulfil the requirements of the health system and this is going to get worse with the aging population and increase in chronic diseases like diabetes and finally, we know that recruitment of P&Os in is difficult due to low numbers of P&Os in Australia.

So the aim of my research is determine if P&Os are getting injured at the same rates as other health professionals at work if they are what sort of injuries are occurring and what the effects of these injuries are. Once we understand this it will be develop preventative programs that will work towards reducing these injuries, keeping P&Os in the workplace, servicing the health needs of Australians