Pathologist Ergonomics Q&A

Uncategorized July 25, 2019

Today we’re looking at another question from a recent Back School graduate. This particular query deals with evaluating a pathologist working with a microscope.

Thank you again for your excellent knowledge and teaching style—I really enjoyed the course in June!!!!

As I mentioned to you at the end of class, I knew there was a request for an ergo eval for one of our pathologists.  I just met with him, took some pics, took some measurements and and a lot of questions.  He is experiencing some strain in his trapezius area. 

The #2 pic is the one I think I need to concentrate on.  It is when he stabilizes his elbows on the desk that there is some flexion of his neck.  Like pic#5 looks better but his elbows aren’t on the desk. 

I think:

– He needs different chair to accommodate getting him to sit back on the backrest, and maybe no armrests if he is going to stabilizing elbows on desk.

 – I worry about the sharp edge of the desk – he did not seem concerned when I mentioned it but I said we don’t want to have a problem in the future

Maybe some sort of padding for his elbows when on desk?

I definitely need help fixing the height/alignment of scope opticles, height of scope and his chair…..

– I would so appreciate any expertise you have to offer……

– Thank you for your time, Kim

This time Ron tapped Martha Frame for some guidance on this particular matter.

Kimberly: Ron Porter has asked me to respond to your questions regarding pathology and use of the microscope.  First I am suggesting you review the attached article that I think will be helpful.

Since use of the microscope requires such a static posture even small changes can be helpful.  The three main things I would consider is use of the eye piece extenders, forearm supports and a different chair.  Eye piece extenders limit how much the pathologist has to lean forward.   You will need to check with the manufacturer of the scope to see what is available for their specific microscope.

Next I would recommend use of the forearm supports. These help support the arms taking some stress off the neck and will address your concern about the sharp edge of the desk. There are different types some just foam that sit on the desk and are softer and others that are padded and clip on the desk.  This second type is  more adjustable in the angle.  They are relatively inexpensive and I would order both types and see what the employee prefers.

I would also consider the chair and make sure the back rest can be adjusted forward to provide back support when seated.  I do work for a hospital system and we have moved many of the pathologists to adjustable height work stations so they can alternate sitting and standing.  if you go with this option choose a desk that uses electricity and not hydraulics to change the height of the desk.  The weight of the microscope is too heavy for a hydraulic desk. 

Lastly, encourage ergo breaks. I hope this helps. Let me know  if you have any other questions.

Marty Frame PT, MBA, CEAS III

Do you have any experience with ergonomics in pathology settings? Let us know in the comments. Check out our Healthcare Ergonomics Online Course for more information on evaluating all manner healthcare environments.

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