A workplace issue for RNs too

Safe driving: A workplace issue for RNs too

Mary Anne Gorman

Healthy Solutions

IN 2001, seven Leduc and area community health nurses travelled a total of 57,782 kilometres to deliver their services to the rural community located 10 minutes south of Edmonton on Highway 2, one of Alberta’s busiest highways. In an average week, the community health nurses clock more than 1,100 kilometres They also drive mainly on rural roadway where 70 percent of highway deaths are reported to occur.

In light of the large amount of work-related miles driven by community health staff, the Injury Prevention Team from Leduc Public Health Centre implemented the Alberta Motor Association (AMA) MISSION POSSIBLE @Work Employee Traffic Safety Program.

Community health nurse

Beth Holland, discovered the AMA’s MISSION POSSIBLE @Work program while developing youth programs to prevent traffic deaths. “The risk of injury from a traffic collision represents a significant workplace hazard for registered nurses,” says Holland.

The MISSION POSSIBLE @Work program addresses the main cause of collisions- driver error – and some common misconceptions that affect driver behaviour such as:

“A motor vehicle collision is an accident.”

“Why is it that everyone but me is a bad driver?”

MISSION POSSIBLE Work promotes safe driving for employees -not just in the course of their workday but at any other time they may take the wheel. “Driving is the riskiest part of our day, regardless of what we do for a living,” says Dawn Green, an AMA program coordinator. “Collisions are the number one cause of death in the workplace and 25 percent of all work-related deaths are due to traffic trauma. Every five years, Alberta highways witness an average 100,000 reportable collisions, 26,000 nonfatal injuries plus 395 fatalities. Add to this a total annual cost to Albertans of $5.2 billion, and one soon begins to see roads and highways in a very different light.”

The program kit provided by the AMA is designed in 16 modules but Holland’s team condensed the program to eight. The kick-off session was held in December 2001 and the last session is scheduled for November 2002. The 45-minute modules, presented jointly by the AMA and the community health unit, include awareness and education components and cover the following topics: speed awareness, inattention and distraction, managing emotions, fatigue, winter driving, and animal hazards.

A series of video clips accompanying the modules realistically portray the dire consequences of unsafe driving behaviours.

“This is a valuable opportunity for group discussion and peer pressure to reinforce good driving behavior,” says Holland. Green adds, “People are angry about traffic, but there is no real forum for them to vent. This program gives them that chance to vent and also time to think about and reflect on their attitudes on the road.”

The program has also helped cultivate the Health Centre’s partnership with the Leduc Nisku Economic Development Authority (EDA) in promoting employee safety. Holland notes that the EDA hopes to achieve the World Health Organization’s

‘Safe Communities’ designation, and thus attract business to the Leduc area.

But changing employee attitudes is never easy. Green issues this challenge: “Don’t use the word ‘accident’ for a week. If we say ‘accident’, we imply that we have no control over the collision and no way to prevent it. That is simply not true because, in the big view, collisions are always preventable.”

Accoding to Green, studies indicate that a startling two-thirds of drivers think that everyone else but them is a poor driver. “It’s dangerous to underestimate the complexity of the driving task,” says Green. “We believe we are competent drivers… so we start to put on lipstick, change a CD, or reach for our cell or coffee cup. All of these activities make for a dangerous driving situation.” The AMA program places the responsibility for collisions squarely on the driver.

MISSION POSSIBLE @Work’s traffic safety program for community health nurses has been offered concurrently with Leduc in Sherwood Park and Bonnie Doon. Beginning in November, Capital Health’s injury prevention staff will also receive training, extending the program to 14 more community health centers in the Edmonton area. This month’s Healthy Solutions column is based on a poster presentation at the 2002 AARN Annual General Meeting submitted by:

Beth Holland RN BScN

Community Health Nurse

Carole Requier RN BScN

Community Health Nurse

Lee Fredeen-Kohlert RN BScN Operations Manager, Leduc, Beaumont and Thorsby Public Health Centres

For more information about MISSION POSSIBLE @Work, contact Dawn Green, MISSION POSSIBLE @Work program coordinator at dgreen@ama.ab.ca or 780.430.5793 or Beth Holland RN, BScN bholland@cha.ab.ca or 780.929.4826.

Copyright Alberta Association of Registered Nurses Nov 2002

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