By Christine Peets
Do you practise what you preach in terms of making sure that your staff is working in a healthy environment, just as you want your patients to have that same benefit?
“We do the best we can,” says osteopath Natan Gendelman, director of the Health In Motion Rehabilitation clinic in Toronto. “If the therapist isn’t comfortable, then the patient is going to sense that, and the patient will not be comfortable either.”
Gendelman adds that it is sometimes difficult to make sure that treatment tables for physiotherapy, massage, and other therapies in the clinic will be comfortable for everyone as it depends on the body type and size of each individual. However, the tables are adjustable for the therapists to be as comfortable as possible while working.
The main thing for the patients, especially children, who have physical or neurological difficulties, Gendelman says, is that the clinic rooms provide a safe environment for everyone. Therefore they are large, and brightly lit. Therapists have room to move around the treatment tables easily, which are adjusted for the patient to get on and off easily, but then be at the right height for the therapist to work.
Therapists being able to have their charts laid out with that day’s patient roster helps for a better work environment too. “Knowing the schedule for the day means that the therapist is not going to be stressed because he or she knows exactly what is planned for the day,” Gendelman says. “This is as important as the safe physical environment—a healthy mental attitude in the workplace. That means better care for our patients.”
Another aspect of a healthy office environment for staff, especially in a multi-disciplinary clinic, is making sure there is a good fit among the staff—that everyone respects the work of the other practitioners, and tries to understand the different medical modalities so they can refer appropriately, says naturopath Sonya Nobbe, director of the Kingston Integrated Healthcare clinic, in Kingston, Ontario.
“As clinic director, I have little say regarding ergonomics because everyone provides equipment suitable for their practice,” Nobbe says. “However, I’m most interested in, and have worked hard to create an environment that is warm, friendly, one in which co-workers actually work well together. That an office space can hold eight professionals who all get along is quite the balancing act, but essential for health. Personality fit is a must in the clinic.”
Professionalism and warmth were paramount considerations when the building was renovated from its original use as a veterinary practice. The warm wood furniture complements the terrazzo floors; soft lighting offsets the stone wall in waiting room, and muted tones on the other walls, all of which creates a warm, welcoming, healthy atmosphere for patients and staff.
“Having our office manager at a bright main desk is also important as that provides human contact, and a safe, welcoming space for patients,” Nobbe says.
What about patients needing care because of an unhealthy work or home environment? Nobbe says that a small part of her practice would make up that population. “As a practitioner, I recognize that 100 per cent of my patients have an environmental component to their health. Whether they recognize it and come to me because of this is another story. The environmental component could be social (i.e. relationships), it could be environmental toxins (e.g. exposure to heavy metals, solvents, allergens),” she says. “It could be ergonomic, and result in a more of a structural health concern, but for these I would refer the patient to either our massage therapist or our osteopath.
Ergonomics is a misused word as far as Gendelman is concerned, because of everyone’s different body size, weight, and height. “You can’t have the perfect office chair, the perfect seat in a car or truck, or the perfect space for everyone to work in,” he says. “You can make adjustments to come close, but everyone is going to have some issues.”
So, do you practise what you preach? According to these practitioners, by creating an atmosphere of mutual respect between practitioners, and between the clinicians and the patients, and by setting up the office to be warm, inviting, and safe for patients, a healthy clinic environment can be created—one that will be beneficial for everyone.
Dr. Sonya Nobbe, Director
Kingston Integrated Healthcare
541 Palace Rd.
Natan Gendelman, Director
Health in Motion Rehabilitation
416- 250 -1904
A version of this article first appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of The Health Professional.
Christine Peets is a freelance writer and a writing instructor. Her services include writing (or ghostwriting) articles for blogs, websites, magazines, and newspapers, as well as corporate reports. For details about writing services and her courses visit www.CaptionsCommunications.ca
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