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December 6, 2001

Contact: Patricia Adams

University of Maryland School of Nursing Researchers to Study Healthcare Worker Safety

Baltimore, Md. – The University of Maryland School of Nursing has received grants totaling more than $3.6 million to study health care worker safety.

A four-year, $999,690 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (CDC/NIOSH) will enable research on factors associated with needle sticks and sharp instrument injuries among health care workers during surgery. According to a recent NIOSH report, between 600,000 and one million needle stick and similar injuries occur in health care workers each year, resulting in 1,000 new cases of HIV or hepatitis B or C. Principal investigator Denise Korniewicz, DNSc, RN, FAAN, Professor, Department of Adult Health Nursing, says a large number of these injuries occur in operating room personnel because they work in the highest risk environment and use more sharp instruments than anyone else in the institution.

An additional four-year, $997,663 grant from CDC/NIOSH will fund the study of work schedules among nurses and how these schedules may be related to needle sticks and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) such as neck, shoulder and back injuries. Principal investigator Alison Trinkoff, ScD, RN, FAAN, Professor, Department of Behavioral and Community Health, and her team, will survey 3,500 nurses who work in a variety of settings on their history of MSDs. Dr. Trinkoff will also serve as principal investigator on a two-year, $694,052 grant from the Department of Health and Human Service's Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to study how organizational factors, such as staffing and skills levels are associated with worker injury and adverse patient outcomes.

Home care work, which is the fastest growing occupation in our country, has been found to be one of the most physically, and possibly psychologically, hazardous work environments. A three-year, $742,500 grant from CDC/NIOSH will fund research on the relationship between the organization of work and the prevalence of major depression and MSDs among home care workers. According to principal investigator Carles Muntaner, MD, PhD, Associate Professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, depression and MSDs are outcomes of adverse work conditions that inflict major social and economic burden on workers, firms and communities, including chronic disability and suicide. In a similar study also funded by CDC/NIOSH for $166,095, Dr. Muntaner is leading research on work organization and depression among nurse aides.

"It is imperative that health care professionals have a safe work environment, and these studies will certainly create a better understanding of the causes of workplace injuries and disabilities," said Barbara R. Heller, EdD, RN, FAAN, Dean of the School of Nursing. "We are pleased that our faculty are conducting research that will benefit health care workers directly."

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