This thesis comprises three chapters about musculoskeletal discomfort (MSD)
in veterinarians. Two of these chapters have been submitted to peer reviewed
journals and one is in preparation for submission. The first chapter describes
the prevalence and risk factors associated with MSD in New Zealand
veterinarians. The second chapter is a paper on the tasks considered by
veterinarians to cause MSD. The third chapter is a review of published literature
on musculoskeletal problems (MSP) in veterinarians.
The first chapter in this thesis describes a cross-sectional study of 867 New
Zealand veterinarians. We used a modified Nordic musculoskeletal
questionnaire to enquire about the presence or absence of MSD, whether this
affected normal activities and if MSD necessitated absenteeism from work.
Additional questions enquired about work activities, psychosocial factors and
workload. The overall period prevalence of MSD was 96%. Normal activities
were affected in 67% and 18% of participants reported that they had been
absent from work due to MSD. Factors associated with the presence of MSD
requiring time off work for clinical veterinarians included 10 year increases in
age (odds ratio (OR) 1.26, 95% CI 1.05 - 1.52), work involving awkward grip
and hand movements 100% of time (OR 12.91, 95% CI 3.46 – 84.21) and those
who were dissatisfied with the level and difficulty of their work (OR 2.72, 95% CI
1.11 - 6.56).
In the second chapter in this thesis, veterinarians were asked to indicate tasks
that they considered ‘most likely to lead to musculoskeletal aches and pains’
and ‘why these tasks were likely to be the most risky’. They were also asked to
suggest ‘any solutions that they applied or knew of’ to reduce musculoskeletal
aches and pains. They identified the following tasks: lifting, surgery, rectal
palpations and animal handling. Their reasons were primarily related to physical
risk factors. Few identified psychosocial risk factors. The most common
suggested solutions involved training and selection strategies rather than
redesign of tasks, activities or facilities. These findings are consistent with a
participatory ergonomics approach for reducing the risk of MSD, which aims to
enhance personal well-being and improved system performance.
The third chapter in this thesis - a review of the literature - focuses on the
prevalence and nature (discomfort, pain, injury and disorders) of MSP amongst
veterinarians. Veterinarians are exposed to a range of physical and
psychosocial occupational hazards that have been well documented and
associated with MSP. The range of reported prevalence estimates in this review
was 50% to 96%. This range may reflect real differences among the veterinary
populations studied, or more likely be due to differences in MSP definitions,
study methodologies, and response rates. The magnitude of the reported
prevalence justifies further research to triangulate data and determine other
factors associated with MSD. Most of the studies in the review focused on
physical risk factors. The lack of studies into psychosocial risk factors for MSP
needs to be addressed.
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Appendix 6: Paper presented at the 15th New Zealand Ergonomics
Society Conference: Ergonomics for the Ageing Population, Martinborough.
Scuffham, A., Stevenson, M., Legg, S. & Firth, E. Prevalence of
musculoskeletal discomfort in New Zealand small animal veterinarians. In: 15th
New Zealand Ergonomics Society Conference: Ergonomics for the Ageing
Population. Eds R. G. Adank & L. Gardner Wood. Martinborough, New Zealand
Ergonomics Society. 27-28 May, 2009, [CD-ROM].
Appendix 7: Paper presented at the Society of Diary Cattle
Veterinarians of the New Zealand Veterinary Association 26th annual
conference, Rotorua. Scuffham, A., Firth, E., Stevenson, M., & Legg, S.
Musculoskeletal discomfort in New Zealand large animal veterinarians. In:
Proceedings of the Society of Dairy Cattle Veterinarians of the New Zealand
Veterinary Association 26th annual conference. Ed. T. Parkinson. VetLearn,
Palmerston North. 24-27 June 2009, pg 201-204.
Appendix 8: Paper presented at the New Zealand Equine Veterinary
Association Annual Conference, Taupo. Scuffham, A., Firth, E., Stevenson, M.
& Legg, S. Musculoskeletal discomfort in New Zealand equine veterinarians. In:
Proceedings of the New Zealand Equine Veterinary Association of the NZVA
Annual Conference. Ed. M Leyland. VetLearn, Palmerston North. 24-27 June
2009, pg 163.
Appendix 9: Paper presented at the 17th International Ergonomics
Association World Congress on Ergonomics, Beijing. Musculoskeletal
discomfort in New Zealand (non-clinical) veterinarians. Scuffham, A., Legg, S.,
Stevenson, M. & Firth, E. (9-14 August, 2009). [CD-ROM]