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The Launch of the Society of Surgical Ergonomics via the American College of Surgeons Bulletin Brief

By Geeta Lal, MD, MSc, FACS, FRCSC, President; Susan Hallbeck, PhD, PE, CPE, President-Elect; Philip I. Haigh, MD, MSc, FACS, FRCSC, Treasurer; and Tara Cohen, PhD, CHSE, Secretary

It gives us immense pleasure to announce the inauguration of the Society of Surgical Ergonomics (SSE), a not-for-profit organization established in June 2021 to advance the education and science of ergonomics in surgery.

The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics (or human factors) as “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”* Thus, ergonomics aims to optimize the interaction between the work environment and the worker. Over the last century, industrial ergonomics has implemented many principles of good ergonomic design to mitigate risk factors in the work environment and reduce the risks of injury.

Despite these many advances, the surgical work environment remains largely unchanged, at least for the surgeon. There is a woeful lack of knowledge regarding good surgical ergonomics throughout surgical training and practice. Operating involves holding non-neutral postures for extended periods of time and increasing the static load on surgeons’ spines with adjuncts such as headlights, loupes, and lead aprons. The work also inherently involves repetitive motions, increasing risk of injury and pain. Moreover, traditional surgical culture favors extreme focus and supports the idea of pushing through, foregoing breaks, and minimizing one’s comfort, all for the good of our patients. Compounding all of this is the fact that the operating room environment has several constraints that act as barriers to improved ergonomics. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that surgeons have very high rates of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WRMSD), irrespective of specialty or surgical approach (open or endoscopic), leading to burnout and career-ending disability.

The SSE was created to bring ergonomics best practices to surgical training and daily surgical work with the goal of improving surgeons’ well-being, quality of life, and career longevity. This unique, multidisciplinary group brings together thought leaders and experts from the fields of surgery, human factors research/ergonomics, occupational medicine, and physical and occupational therapy.

For more information, follow the group on Twitter @SurgErgoGroup.

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