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Keywords:

  • ergonomics;
  • cytotechnologists;
  • musculoskeletal discomfort

Abstract

Analysis of this survey of 244 responding cytotechnologists shows that a high percentage still suffer from musculoskeletal disorders commonly associated with poor ergonomic design in the workplace, despite the variety of ergonomically designed microscopes that have been introduced into the market. Although Kalavar and Hunting surveyed a small group of cytotechnologists in the Washington, DC, area in 1996, no broad-based study has focused specifically on these professionals. The landmark study of microscope ergonomics, published by Soderberg in 1980, documented widespread musculoskeletal complaints in the electronics industry. This article identifies and discusses the types of musculoskeletal discomforts experienced by cytotechnologists. We propose that both practicing and student cytotechnologists receive training in ergonomic principles and appropriate interventions, such as improved work practices, proper ergonomic aids, well-designed workstations, and ergonomically designed equipment. More than 85% of respondents reported some musculoskeletal discomfort. Among the symptoms presented are headache, neck pain and stiffness, pain of the lower and upper back, and upper-extremity discomfort. Neurological symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, and/or pain in the hand and fingers, are often associated with repetitive motion. More than one-third reported numbness, tingling, and/or pain in the left-hand fingers, usually used for the fine-focus control knob. Almost one-half of respondents reported such symptoms for the right hand and fingers, normally used to manipulate the mechanical stage controls. Only 9% of the respondents were left-handed. Most (91%) were right handed. Although just over one-third (34.4%) of respondents worked for an employer with an ergonomics program, ergonomic assessments had been performed for only about one-half (17.6%) of these. In addition, approximately 10% of respondents indicated that ergonomics assessments had been performed on their workstations, even though the employer did not have an ergonomics program. Because of the high prevalence of reported symptoms, we recommend that all cytologists be trained in basic ergonomic principles and the proper use of ergonomic aids. These interventions should reduce the prevalence of musculoskeletal discomfort in medical microscopists. Diagn. Cytopathol. 2003;29:364–367. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.