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Nursing assistants : preserving the well-being of patients while preserving their own health

As a Caregiver, you fulfill a crucial role within the healthcare sector by providing valuable support to patients, which has a significant impact on their daily well-being. However, this demanding profession can also pose risks to your own physical health.

These risks manifest themselves in the form of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) resulting from repetitive actions such as sweeping, washing floors and wringing, carrying heavy loads when patients get up and lie down as well as moving furniture. , as well as the need to adopt restrictive postures such as squatting or raising arms when cleaning rooms or mobilizing patients.

94% of occupational illnesses recognized among nursing assistants in nursing homes are linked to these MSDs. This complex situation results from several elements, including the aging of the population, the increasing prevalence of multiple diseases, financial constraints, public demands and the way work is organized. Incidents are frequent and show a constant upward trend in this sector of activity.

More than 60% of stoppages are linked to back pain.

Helping a person get back into bed, get up from their chair, sit down, etc. The daily life of a caregiver is characterized by physically demanding tasks which can lead in the long term to muscle injuries, lower back pain, herniated discs, and joint problems. More than half of MSDs affect the lumbar region.

● Muscle injuries: healthcare assistants are regularly required to move and handle patients. This leads to muscle and joint strain, especially if proper lifting and moving techniques are not used.

● MSD of the shoulder: in addition to handling patients, caregivers may be required to lift and transport heavy medical equipment, such as oxygen tanks or trolleys which add pressure on the shoulders.

● Lower back pain: Their job often involves spending long hours in uncomfortable positions, such as bending or squatting to care for patients. These prolonged postures can put excessive strain on the back muscles.

● Herniated disc: the intense physical efforts associated with their daily work can put considerable pressure on the spine. A busy schedule and a lack of regular breaks can lead to injury to the intervertebral disc.

Beyond pain: understanding MSD

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are diseases that affect the joints, muscles and tendons due in particular to biomechanical overload.

Given their high prevalence (they represent 87% of occupational illnesses in France) and their impacts both for employees (after-effects, etc.) and for companies (absenteeism, drop in productivity, health insurance contributions, etc.), it is necessary to implement concrete actions to remedy this.

Among these, it is possible to turn to exoskeletons.

Preventive solutions to adopt

To minimize these risks, the use of lifting aids and appropriate training in patient handling techniques are essential.

● Exercises and stretching: encourage caregivers to regularly practice stretching and even muscle strengthening exercises to help them prevent back and joint problems.

● Training and awareness: prevention is the key to avoiding MSDs inherent to the nursing assistant profession. Employers must provide adequate training on MSD prevention, proper patient handling practices, and recognition of risk factors.

● Ergonomics at work: Ergonomics plays a crucial role in preventing injuries. The acquisition of ergonomic medical equipment, particularly physical assistance devices such as exoskeletons, proves to be an effective way to alleviate physical constraints and improve postures. In addition, adjusting the height of work surfaces, using handling aids, such as patient lifts, to reduce the carrying of heavy loads, or suitable chairs helps reduce the risk of injury.

What is an exoskeleton?

Exoskeleton-type Physical Assistance Devices (PADs) are ergonomic solutions which, as their name suggests, aim to reduce the biomechanical demands on workers.

Worn on the body like a backpack, these exoskeletons are completely passive (no motors, cylinders or other electronics) and operate using a principle of energy storage-restitution using springs made of composite materials.

Concretely, the exoskeletons developed by ErgoSanté make work easier, reduce fatigue, preserve health and maintain employment.

HAPO: the exoskeleton that relieves the back on demand

The HAPO is a passive physical assistance device operating using spring rods made of composite material which allows a partial transfer of efforts from the upper trunk (via pectoral support) to the thighs.

Both light (1.2 kg) and discreet, the HAPO was designed to help workers reduce physical lumbar load and thus preserve the intervertebral discs.

Optimal situations for using the HAPO exoskeleton are those that require a “leaning forward” posture during static or dynamic tasks.

Usable both outdoors and indoors, the HAPO has the particularity of being disengageable so that you can sit in a machine or climb stairs without discomfort and in complete safety.

During laboratory tests, it was shown that, compared to a situation without an exoskeleton, the HAPO made it possible to reduce the demand on the back muscles by approximately -20%.

HAPO SD: the exoskeleton that relieves the back even when bending on the ground

The HAPO SD (Without Unlocking) is the simplest and most robust passive physical assistance device in the HAPO range. Both light (0.9 kg) and discreet, the HAPO SD was designed to partially redirect the efforts of the upper trunk (via pectoral support) towards the thighs.

Operating using spring rods made of composite material, the HAPO SD reduces the physical lumbar load of workers and thus helps preserve the intervertebral discs.

The optimal situations for the use of the HAPO SD exoskeleton are those requiring complete flexion of the trunk on the ground, static or dynamic.

During laboratory tests, it was shown that, compared to a situation without an exoskeleton, the HAPO SD reduced the demand on the back muscles by approximately -11%.