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Home is where the danger is

October 22, 2013

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Similar to their hospital counterparts, home health care workers perform risky activities such as administering injections and transferring a patient from a wheelchair to the bed or toilet. But they do so in the patient’s home, which may have clutter, dust, tobacco smoke, mold, poor lighting, small bathrooms, pets, and even pests such as roaches or mice.

A new project aims to help workers safely navigate such hazards. This month, researchers from Ohio State University and the University of Louisville received a three-year, $870,000 grant from NIOSH to develop a virtual simulation training program for home health care workers.

The training is necessary, according to Barbara Polivka, co-researcher on the project and a nursing professor at the University of Louisville, because the education provided by employers may not be adequate. Some may simply have workers watch a video or read a packet of materials.

“There’s not consistency across home health agencies, so that’s one of the things we’re kind of aiming for,” Polivka said.

The first phase of the project will involve focus groups and interviews with home health aides, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, agency educators and managers. Their feedback will be used to create scenarios for the simulation. Polivka said the training likely will address hazards in the living room, kitchen, bedroom and hallway. She’s also considering creating avatars for workers so they can feel like they’re in the actual working environment.

Polivka was at Ohio State when she submitted the grant proposal, and she noted that this is truly a collaborative project, with researchers from different institutions and disciplines working together to help reduce injuries among home health care workers. Being safe and healthy should then enable workers to provide the best care to patients – a win-win.

What scenarios would you suggest including in the training? Let me know in the comments section below.

The opinions expressed in "Research Spotlight" do not necessarily reflect those of the National Safety Council or affiliated local Chapters.

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