Article By: Mark Williams, AWARE-NS Safety Collaborator

The Problem

In 2012 The Worker’s Compensation Board (WCB) presented to the DHA’s/IWK a problem. In essence the problem can be described something like this:
80% of time loss claims, in Healthcare, reported to the WCB are strains and sprains (AKA musculoskeletal injuries [MSIs], repetitive strain injuries [RSIs], cumulative trauma injuries [CMIs] and soft tissue injuries [STIs]). Of those about half are associated with patient handling activities.
The cost to the system is multiple millions of dollars and the human costs are incalculable (how do you quantify an injured employee being unable to lift their child when they are home?)
A partnership was formed with AWARE-NS, the DHAs/IWK, and the WCB to commit resources to solving this problem. A group of senior executives and injury prevention experts were pulled together to create a plan to address the problem of strains and sprains in healthcare. Since that time, more partners have stepped up to the challenge including the Department of Health and Wellness, Health Human Resources Sector Council and Department of Labour and Advanced Education.

The Solution

All partners involved agreed continuing with the status quo would not solve the identified problem and the underlying factors contributing to the injury rates would take a significant change in current practices. A working group was formed and, despite a few changes in membership, focus has been maintained on the mandate. This focus comes largely from the passion and expertise of the working group members, but also from early work facilitated by co-sponsors of the initiative, Sheila Rankin (AVH) and Steve Ashton (IWK), in which guiding principles for the strategy were created. The guiding principles agreed upon were collaboration, integration, evidence based, sustainability, concurrent activities, and people centred/cost effective/resource wise.

A Strategy In Motion

With the nature of the changes required in the sector, organizations, and individuals to solve the problem of strains and sprains it was always clear that engagement of the folks most impacted is critical. This focus on engagement weaves the other 6 guiding principles together and is considered in every action taken by the working group.
The healthcare sector is large and complex, a highly regulated environment with a mixture of organizations that interconnect to varying degrees. To define the problem of strains and sprains into manageable pieces the working group has divided up the problem. The intention continues to be to progress through the pieces systematically, passing along lessons learned, at each step.

What will Soteria – Strains, the first Soteria project in the strategy, look like?

The Soteria working group has identified 2 major deliverables to provide to the partner organizations.

  1. A Program Guide– this will include elements shown to be effective in published literature as well as elements identified as helpful or required based on what was heard during engagement sessions with the individuals who manage and do the work of assisting patients to move. This will also include supporting materials and direction to resources such as training material.
  2. An Implementation/Sustainability Guide – This will include information on successfully implementing the program and sustaining it.

The Program Guide could be considered the meat of the program or the ideal state. The implementation guide is a map of how to get to that ideal state. Currently the focus is on the DHA’s/IWK and lessons learned will be shared with long term and home care.
Visit the Soteria website to learn more about this exciting project!

About The Author

Mark Williams, Physiotherapist, is currently the Project Leader for Soteria Strains, a provincial injury prevention strategy for Nova Scotia healthcare. Mark was seconded from Capital Health’s Injury Prevention team in March of 2013 to his current role. Prior to his two and a half years as Capital Health’s Injury Prevention Consultant Mark spent nearly a decade working in various private practice Physiotherapy settings including Team Leader for CBI Physiotherapy and Clinic Administrator (Manager) for HealthSouth, at the time the largest health care provider in the United States. He has always enjoyed integrating injury prevention consulting work with his busy practice and often speaks of his gratitude for the recent opportunities to focus on this important work fully. Mark has consulted with various organizations including the Halifax Shipyards, Department of Natural Resources and the Nova Scotia Truckers Safety Association.