Sound Ergonomic: Prevention and Reduction of Repetitive Use Injuries

Article Conference CoverageFrom 45th Annual Conference of the AIUM - Orlando, FL 2001

Audio/Video Link  *requires RealPlayer - free download

Barbara Nesbitt: "Hi, I'm Barbara Nesbitt the Editor of, and we're at AIUM in Orlando, Florida. I have the pleasure of being here today with Susan Murphey who is a colleague of Joan Baker. She's on her way to Australia, correct?"

Susan L. Murphey: "She is."

Barbara Nesbitt: "And then there's another colleague?"

Susan L. Murphey: "Carolyn Coffin is also a partner."

Barbara Nesbitt: "And you have a new training company, we'll call it. Is that right?"

Susan L. Murphey: "Exactly, and we're looking to provide education and training for the prevention of occupational injury amongst sonographers."

Barbara Nesbitt: "It's Sound Ergonomics out of Washington State?"

Susan L. Murphey: "Right, the Seattle area in Washington."

Barbara Nesbitt: "Why did you decide what you're doing is important, how did you go about starting this up, and how are you spreading the word?"

Susan L. Murphey: "The problem of injury among sonographers, vascular technologists, and cardiac sonographers has been known for quite some time. In fact, Joan Baker was one of the primary people that first began to gather data and do research on the risk for injury and the number of injuries. What they found out was the number of injuries was outrageous; 84% of sonographers are experiencing some degree of pain related to the profession and the numbers are growing. And of that, 20% are sustaining career ending injuries so it became the motivation for how to reduce these numbers."

Barbara Nesbitt: "Now do they do any training or have they prior to now done any training when somebody is going into sonography and they're taking the courses? Have they ever done anything with them to help them at that level?"

Susan L. Murphey: "No, actually it was because they didn't know what to do. So after much research and working with work injury prevention specialists, we work specifically with ultrasound, we brought occupational therapists and physical therapists in and just picked it apart and decided what could be done to reduce the risk. Now we're offering that information both in the clinical site to sonographers but also in the academic site and, hopefully, by giving those students the information before they go out…"

Barbara Nesbitt: "You're going to prevent these things from happening to them."

Susan L. Murphey: "Absolutely."

Barbara Nesbitt: "So another area you would go into, say, a facility or large hospital and go into the department and then do in-house training of the employees."

Susan L. Murphey: "We'll go in, we'll evaluate how they scan and what their setup is of their ancillary equipment such as the exam table, the chairs, the monitors - all of those things are factors in your risk for injury. We can go in and evaluate those factors and then give recommendations to reduce their risk."

Barbara Nesbitt: "A good point, I was in one of the booths here and I saw they have a table that goes up and down and a sonographer can adjust it to different heights. This is new."

Susan L. Murphey: "Right, that's very important. You've got to get yourself in proper postural alignment before you start to scan, and one of the key factors is having an exam table or a chair that is appropriately adjustable."

Barbara Nesbitt: "Let's say I already have a job related injury. Now I'm going to go to a physician, maybe an orthopedic surgeon, or maybe just my regular GP that I go to. Does he or she know what I'm talking about or do we have to educate a little bit there?"

Susan L. Murphey: "There is the need for education there, a lot of clinicians don't understand the nature of the injury. They think that a sonographer just waves a little wand around the patient's belly and how could that be physically demanding? It turns out it's very physically demanding so what you run into is they don't recognize the injury. Even some physical therapists don't know how to treat the injuries that are sustained by sonographers. Probably the area of expertise that understands it the most are sports medicine physicians because they are repetitive use injuries and they're very much like those of pitchers and athletic-type people."

Barbara Nesbitt: "The old tennis elbow, or something like that?"

Susan L. Murphey: "Absolutely."

Barbara Nesbitt: "So the average orthopedic surgeon or physician you can educate to be aware of somebody that comes in and what it is and then what to do with it. But the person - we're not going to call them a patient - that's getting it has to know that it's not because they're lifting somebody that's 300 pounds. That's not the biggest problem, you say it's holding your arm out."

Susan L. Murphey: "Because you may have people that will go out on injury and maybe go through physical therapy, recover, get good results, and then if they go back into the exact same setup that caused their injury then the same thing is going to happen again because the trauma to the muscles and the tendons is cumulative."

Barbara Nesbitt: "Okay, so they have to be trained in the proper way to perform their job."

Susan L. Murphey: "Definitely."

Barbara Nesbitt: "You were saying that you're doing guidelines, is this going to be on the web, is it going to be available - how do they get the information?"

Susan L. Murphey: "We can go into the clinical site, it really varies from site to site depending on their patient load, on the type of exams they perform, the type of equipment they have, and even how tall the sonographers are. It all effects what your postural alignment is so we can go into a site and evaluate each sonographer in lab, how they scan, what their setup is, and make recommendations from there that will be individual for that particular lab."

Barbara Nesbitt: "Then you're going to do something in the education level in academia when they're starting them out."

Susan L. Murphey: "Right, and we have a program coming out for the fall semester that will offer educational training for academic programs so those sonographers can go out with the right information."

Barbara Nesbitt: "Is Terry DuBose using this or going to use this?"

Susan L. Murphey: "I certainly hope so."

Barbara Nesbitt: "Because he teaches that whole crew and it would be wonderful for him."

Susan L. Murphey: "We'd definitely work very closely with him. It's a multifaceted problem, it's not just one quick fix and that will take care of it. We've worked with the manufacturers in equipment design, and we've worked with the manufacturers in teaching their customers how to use their equipment properly. They may design ergonomic features into their equipment but then the equipment goes out into the clinical site and the staff doesn't know how to take advantage of that.

Barbara Nesbitt: "That's correct."

Susan L. Murphey: "So we've worked with the manufacturers in ergonomic training on that particular piece of equipment, and we've also worked in equipment design with the people in scan head design groups and platform design groups and the various engineers that are working on new equipment."

Barbara Nesbitt: "Is there anything else I haven't asked you that you would like to add?"

Susan L. Murphey: "We're just interested in getting the information out any way that we can to reduce the numbers of injuries. We're working with clinical, academic, and with manufacturers. We also have a program that we offer staffing companies. It turns out that the American Staffing Association has some guidelines that they require staffing companies to provide ergonomic training, and so we make it easy by providing a program to do that. Our focus is really education, getting the word out, and getting people retrained to reduce the risk for injuries."

Barbara Nesbitt: "Why don't you tell us how people can contact you?"

Susan L. Murphey: "The largest source of information is our website which is , and you can also reach us by phone at 206-417-8151."

Barbara Nesbitt: "Say hi to Joan when you see her."

Susan L. Murphey: "I will."

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