We are HealthFitness, and we’re “better” people. We believe that achieving better health is a unique lifelong journey that is best achieved when people have help along the way.
Help from people like Patricia Annoni, RN, BSN, who serves 1,000 manufacturing workers at a leading medical device company in Plymouth, Minn.
With 24 years of nursing experience—including stints in acute care, long-term care and disease management—Annoni jumped at the opportunity to serve in a full-time injury prevention and treatment role. “It’s rewarding to support safety and wellness for the production workers and I love the ability to work independently,” she says.
Annoni creates and sustains a healthy and safe work environment for employees by rotating her schedule throughout three shifts. Her team includes a part-time occupational therapist and she reports to the company’s environmental and safety manager. She is charged with employee interventions including administering first aid, injury prevention and triage.
Unique work results in a variety of injuries
Production workers assemble medical devices in the aortic and peripheral vascular facility. This unique job requires working with tiny parts, chemical agents, frequent pinching and grasping of small tools—including razor blades—and completing the work under a microscope.
This wide range of production tasks may result in a wide range of injuries—and Annoni is ready to provide first aid and treatment, no matter when, where or how the injury occurs. “Injuries can happen at any time—from cuts, burns, slips and falls to musculoskeletal strains from repetitive motion,” she says. “A worker may show up at my door bleeding from a razor cut, or if it’s an emergency, I am charged with managing the emergency response team.”
Making better connections
Most members of this culturally diverse workforce—including Hmong, Vietnamese and Africans—speak English as a second language. Annoni uses creative ways to break down the language barrier. “I have learned to talk slowly and use simple words,” she says, “I also share a lot of pictures of cuts and burns as well as the pain measurement scale with the faces that show the level of pain so workers can just point—no words needed!”
Stretching the idea of wellness
In addition to providing first aid and treatment, Annoni makes it a priority to connect with the workers on all three shifts and developed two types of stretch programs to help do this: micro and mandatory.
Micro stretch breaks help prevent injuries and workers may take breaks every 30 minutes for 30 seconds. “I started training with small groups of 10 people, but then I worked with each employee individually, teaching them how to stretch correctly, adjust their chair, and correct their posture,” she says. “I even made notebooks for all of the groups so they have a reference for when I’m not there.”
Mandatory stretch breaks help workers reduce fatigue and improve balance, coordination and posture. “The stretch breaks provide an energy boost and stress relief—workers don’t mind that they are mandatory,” she says. “Each day, two times per shift, the workers will stop what they’re doing and complete a five-minute stretch break—and they look forward to it!”
Annoni spends a great deal of time on the manufacturing floor conducting ergonomic assessments. The workstations include adjustable chairs, so some workers stand while others sit. As a result, workers may be hunched over the tables and posture becomes a very big issue.
“Although it’s important that workers learn how to do stretch breaks and maintain a correct posture, I really have a great day when the workers understand the “why” of what we are doing together: learning how to prevent injuries and create a safe workplace.”
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