Musculoskeletal pains among phlebotomists in outpatient clinics: prevalence, and association with personal factors and ergonomic analysis of the workstation

Joseph Azuri, Sigal Atias-Etzion

Keywords: phlebotomist, drawing blood, clinical laboratory technicians, ergonomics, musculoskeletal disorders.

Phlebotomists are laboratory workers who collect blood as a significant part of their occupation. They are a unique group within the medical laboratory's working force. The literature has rarely dealt with musculoskeletal disorders among these workers.

Research questions:
To investigate the prevalence of musculoskeletal pains among phlebotomists, their relation to personal factors, and ergonomic workstation analysis.

In this cross-sectional study, self-administered questionnaires were distributed to phlebotomists in out-patient clinics (N=115, 65.16% response rate). The questionnaires included socio-demographic data, information about the workstation, and the Nordic Musculoskeletal Questionnaire. In addition, an ergonomic score was used for the characterization of workstations.

80.7% reported at least one symptomatic body area in the past year. The three most common symptomatic body areas in the past year were the lower back (72.7%), neck (60.9%), and shoulders (59%). These areas also had the highest incidence of complaints disrupting work. A logistic regression model for predicting pain within a year found adequate leg space as a significant component of the ergonomic score (p=0.045, OR=0.222). This component was also a protective factor for neck pain disrupting work (p=0.047, OR=0.385).

The prevalence of musculoskeletal pains among phlebotomists in out-patient clinics was high. Further research should investigate the impact of psychosocial factors on these complaints.

Points for discussion:
Musculoskeletal pain as a health hazard for healthcare workers.