Focus on Safety

Daniel Schwager, ASRT Foundation Marketing and Communications Associate
Dec. 20, 2016

Safety First LogoTo help ensure technologists aren’t sacrificing their own health as they care for others, and to improve health and safety for technologists across the country, Toshiba America Medical Systems partnered with the ASRT Foundation in 2015 and created the Safety FiRsT™ grant.

Granting Safety Wishes

“Radiation safety is more than lowering dose; it is a continual process that must be examined and refined whenever possible,” said Cathy Wolfe, senior director of strategic communications and marketing intelligence for Toshiba. “Safety FiRsT grants will help recipient facilities improve patient care by ensuring that technologists’ safety concerns are addressed, allowing them to focus solely on the needs of the patient in front of them.”

Safety FiRsT awards two facilities up to $7,000 each to implement or improve a safety initiative that will positively affect radiologic technologists. ASRT members submit applications to the Foundation on behalf of their employers. In the applications, they outline how the grant will be used to address a safety issue and create a safer work environment for medical imaging technologists or radiation therapists.

In 2015, Cook County North Shore Hospital and Care Center in Grand Marais, Minnesota, and Memorial Hospital of Converse County in Douglas, Wyoming, received the inaugural Safety FiRsT grants. Toshiba renewed its support of the program in early 2016 and grant recipients were selected earlier this fall.

This year’s winning submissions were from Christine Bak, A.S., R.T.(R)(T), of Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut, and Jennifer Maquez, A.S., R.T.(R)(MR), MRSO, of Boca Raton Regional Hospital in Boca Raton, Florida.

Bringing Communities Together

The hospitals earning 2016 Safety FiRsT grants have several things in common: Both are cutting-edge facilities, both have received numerous awards and both were started as a response to a local tragedy.

Hartford Hospital is an 867-bed hospital founded in 1854 in response to a steam boiler explosion at the nearby Fales & Gray Car Works. The riverfront railroad car manufacturing company’s steam boiler exploded on March 2, 1854, killing 19 men and leaving 23 wounded.

At the time, Hartford was a city of 15,000, but it had no hospital. The city’s doctors had to work from the injured workers’ homes. The disaster made it clear that the city was unprepared to treat serious injuries. According to the hospital’s website, the facility “was founded out of humanitarian concern for all of the citizens of Hartford and was envisioned as a place where the finest medicine would be made available to those in need.”

Hartford Hospital is now one of the largest teaching hospitals and tertiary care centers in New England. It was one of the first facilities to use da Vinci surgical robots. The hospital also owns and operates the state’s only air ambulance system.

Boca Raton Regional Hospital also was established in response to a tragedy. The 400-bed facility was established in 1967, five years after hospital founders Robert and Gloria Drummond’s children were poisoned.

On the night before Easter, 1962, Debbie Ann, 9, and her brother, James Randall, 3, drank from a bottle of milk that a neighbor’s son had laced with sodium arsenic. Robert and Gloria rushed the children to Bethesda Memorial Hospital in Boynton Beach, the nearest hospital at the time. They were alive when the family arrived at the hospital and were tested to determine what had happened. Tragically, the children died before lab tests results were returned.

Robert and Gloria immediately began raising money to build a hospital “to ensure that area residents would have access to quality health care and lifesaving emergency care when they needed it the most,” says the hospital’s website. “From bake sales and fiestas to a black-tie ball, the community raised the funds to build a hospital that would develop into a nationally ranked medical center.” Five years later, Boca Raton Community Hospital was built, and today it is acknowledged as a leader in emergency medicine and diagnostic and imaging services.

Backing the Health of Employees

Christine, a radiation therapist in the radiation oncology department at Hartford Hospital, submitted an application to improve the safety of the 11 therapists who work in the department.

“We’re going to use the grant funds to purchase an overhead lift,” she said. “This will reduce the need for therapists to lift patients up from a lying position and reduce the number of slides and lifts required for a patient transfer.”

New lift equipment was part of Christine’s overall plan to alleviate the strain on the backs and necks of therapists while they were trying to move patients who were unable to move themselves. Musculoskeletal injuries can be a serious problem. Not only do injured therapists suffer from pain and frustration, but they also require time off to heal, Christine said. A back injury also can cut short a promising career.

“We’ve had a number of therapists hurt their backs or necks while helping move patients,” she said. “In the past five years, we have developed and carried out several trainings regarding lifting techniques to try to reduce the risk of injury to therapists. Despite these trainings and the staff’s attention to techniques, we’ve had six significant injuries.”

Jennifer, a magnetic resonance imaging technologist at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, submitted an application to address safety concerns affecting the hospital’s 23 technologists.

“We have patients who are unsteady on their feet and require a lot of assistance,” she said. “But we do not have all the proper safety equipment to help with patient transfers without risk of injury to technologists.” Jennifer’s proposal was to reduce the risk of injury to technologists during patient transfers by using wheelchair transfer boards, transfer pivot discs and folding, adjustable-height walkers, and for the department to develop policies around the use of the new equipment.

Making Moves To Improve

Jennifer and Christine are working to fix a significant workplace hazard; technologists are at risk for musculoskeletal injuries, a 2015 study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found. The majority of the study’s participants reported work-related pain. Some 1,000 Mayo Clinic employees who work in affiliated hospitals with interventional cardiology or interventional radiology laboratories participated in the survey, and more than half of the participants who work with ionizing radiation reported musculoskeletal pain.

Another issue Jennifer is looking to solve with her facility’s grant is to curb the introduction of dangerous objects into the magnetic resonance imaging magnet room, also known as zone IV. Despite her department’s careful screening efforts, patients sometimes wear necklaces or other magnetic objects, she said. “If patients do not follow our instructions and leave items on under their gowns … these hidden items can become dangerous projectiles,” she said.

Therefore, the grant also will help the facility purchase a metal-detecting wand and create procedures around its use to ensure every patient is scanned before entering zone IV. The Joint Commission recommends the use of ferromagnetic detection systems like the one described in Jennifer’s grant proposal.

The Hartford and Boca Raton Regional hospitals have shown a passion for improving the safety of their staff while providing the best patient care possible. The Safety FiRsT grant will help “take our facility’s safety procedures to the next level,” Jennifer said.

All of the ASRT members who submitted applications on behalf of their facilities for the 2016 Safety FiRsT grants share Toshiba America Medical Systems and the ASRT Foundation’s goal of creating the safest work environments possible for R.T.s. The Foundation thanks Toshiba and all the participants. For more information, visit the Safety FiRsT web page.