Top tips to minimise the symptoms and severity of repetitive strain injury (RSI) for Sonographers

Mrs Sam Frater, Superintendent Radiographer, Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust shares her Top Tips to minimise the symptoms and severity of repetitive strain injury (RSI) for Sonographers

During ten years of monitoring individual Sonographers regarding their symptoms of RSI and working with other professionals and equipment providers we have come up with the following tips to aim to minimise the symptoms and severity of RSI.

1)  Monitor location and severity of any symptoms: Sonographers are given a questionnaire annually where they document any symptoms and grade the severity of the symptoms. This allows any concerns to be highlighted and we also document anything that may have affected symptoms, either positively or negatively. This has provided evidence that has enabled us to make changes over the years.

2)  Diary organisation: set up the diary sessions to ensure that the types of examinations are varied throughout the session to reduce the repetition of the same movements and postures. Within the general lists we aim to have no more than 2-3 pelvic scans in a row and within obstetrics we do the same for NT scan bookings

3)  Designated lists: for the diary structure to be effective individuals need ownership of a list because it is not possible to ensure that the individual is not going to get a whole session of the same examination if they take from the top of a general pile. Having ownership of a room for a session also allows the individual to set up the equipment optimally to improve ergonomics instead of trying to tweak the set up before every patient in a different room.

4)  Observation: work with colleagues to monitor their ergonomics during the scans so any improvements can be highlighted  A number of Sonographers found that being filmed whilst scanning, so they could watch the footage back, was extremely useful. Seeing is believing and some individuals were surprised about the postures they were adopting without realising. This obviously needs the relevant permissions from patients. We reviewed the footage with a Manual Handling Coordinator and the Occupational Health Physiotherapist, who had seen a number of the Sonographers as patients and was aware of their symptoms, so it was really helpful for them to see this footage as well and provide us with recommendations.

5)  Challenge manufacturers: give feedback and work with manufacturers if there are improvements that could be made. If any issues are not mentioned by the people using the equipment then change is not going to happen. The improvement may not be possible but they would be able to explain why or whether it is a work in progress. However if enough people are highlighting the same issue there may be an incentive to make a change.

6)  Other suggestions:

  1. Put up examples of different stretches and strengthening exercises around the department to remind and encourage staff to do them.
  2. Find an outlet for the stress and strain which could include physio, massage, Pilates, exercise…..
  3. Use the expertise of other professionals within your Trust such as Physios, Manual Handling Coordinators, Hand Therapists because they may have suggestion that we have not considered.