Q: What can we do to reduce the harmful effects that prolonged standing and walking have on our nursing staff?

Healthcare administrators who are designing new buildings or renovating existing facilities ask this question often. Their goal is to create a comfortable working environment that enables employees to focus on their work rather than their aching feet. Read on and watch the featured videos to see how busy nursing staff experienced reduced muscle fatigue thanks to the added cushion underfoot.

Arming nurses to fight muscle fatigue caused by prolonged standing.

In many healthcare facilities, 12-hour shifts are not unusual for medical staff, with nurses walking as many as five miles during those shifts. Although proper footwear can alleviate some of the harmful effects of prolonged standing and walking, soft, resilient rubber flooring offers an important weapon in the battle against muscle fatigue and aching backs, legs and feet. The floor covering’s content and structure make it especially resilient, easing pressure on joints and reducing many of the complaints associated with heel pain; plantar fasciitis; shin splints; and knee, hip and lower back pain.

Creating a comfortable environment that would address these issues was important to administrators at the new Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas, which is why the $1.3 billion facility features more than 750,000 square feet of rubber flooring in corridors, labs, pharmacies, staff areas, radiology and nurseries. “Nurses are almost always walking,” says Gay Chabot, program director at the hospital. “While you can have orthotics and real fancy, expensive shoes, the softness of the actual floor plays a large part in comfort. Rubber flooring has made a huge difference compared to what they’re used to walking on in our old facility.”

How to Guard Against Aching Feet and Weary Legs

The story is much the same at Boston’s Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Like so many finishes in the 262,000-square-foot acute rehabilitation facility, floor coverings were carefully selected. “We wanted something that felt comfortable to walk on, and in fact, it seems we were able to accomplish that with the rubber flooring we chose,” says Paula Hereau, vice president of operations. In addition to the medical team, members of the housekeeping staff also appreciate the rubber floor covering. According to David Cohen, director of environmental services, “The flooring has a little bit of give to it. It makes it easier for staff and a little bit more ergonomically friendly for them to be on their feet and be moving around all day on a surface that has a little bit more of a comfort factor to it.”

The staff at Baystate Medical Center (BMC) in Springfield, MA, reached similar conclusions after opening a new, 640,000-square-foot emergency department. Hospital administrators stipulated that the products used in the new unit needed to align with their sustainable building guidelines, while providing for the comfort and productivity of nurses and staff and enhancing safety and patient care. Nurses responded favorably to the rubber flooring that was installed in patient areas. “Staff members really like the flooring, because it has a little bit of cushion to it,” reports Stanley Hunter, project executive at BMC, adding that the enhanced underfoot comfort helps staff stay focused and fight fatigue.

How to Guard Against Aching Feet and Weary Legs

Conversations about the ergonomic benefits that rubber flooring delivers to each of these facilities also include references to the ease with which staff can move carts, wheelchairs and other pieces of equipment across rooms and down corridors. It also offers important slip-resistant properties to staff and patients alike. This is especially critical in orthopedic, geriatric and rehabilitative areas of these and other healthcare facilities. By removing the fear of slips and falls and creating a more comfortable environment, rubber flooring supports medical professionals who are less fatigued and better able to concentrate on the tasks at hand and the patients in their care.

To learn even more about each of these projects, read the briefs in full: Parkland Hospital, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and Baystate Medical Center.