Breathing a Sigh of Relief at NHC Corpus Christi

Naval Health Clinic Corpus Christi, Texas
Story by William Love

Date: 04.17.2018
Posted: 04.19.2018 09:46
News ID: 273665
Breathing a Sigh of Relief at NHC Corpus Christi

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (April 17, 2018) Naval Health Clinic Corpus Christi healthcare professionals got a boost in occupational respiratory health that coincided with National Occupational Health Nurses’ week April 9-15.

Six technicians and nurses were certified, and five recertified during a National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) approved course, Spirometry in Occupational Medicine. The three day course and one day recertification taught by Ida Ancheta, BSN, RN, COHN-S meets Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard regulations of occupational health screening spirometry.

Spirometry plays an important role in an occupational respiratory health surveillance program. It can assist the health professional by determining if a worker demonstrates a specific pattern of respiratory impairment and can help to assess the effectiveness of measures implemented to protect the individual worker. In addition, results from defined groups of workers can be evaluated in relation to potential workplace hazards.

“We screen workers who may be exposed to respiratory hazards,” said Janemarie Schoonover, MN, RN, COHN-S, an occupational health nurse (OHN) assigned to NHC Corpus Christi. “Our lung function screening is tailored to the workers’ job duties (i.e. painter, welder). It aims at closely monitoring their breathing ability every year during their employment. The goal is to identify and correct any abnormalities found.”

Occupational health nursing is the specialty practice of delivering health and safety programs and services to employees, worker populations, and association groups. Sometimes occupational health nurses are referred to as occupational and environmental health nurses.

“The Navy’s Medical Surveillance Programs aim at keeping our workers safe on the job. In conjunction with our efforts, Base Safety also provides required training on the proper use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), especially when our engineering controls are not possible or sufficient, (i.e. jet engine).” said Schoonover.

Industrial Hygiene (IH) does air sampling and noise sampling, and they provide their survey to occupational health.

“The IH survey identifies the potential health risk,” said Schoonover, explaining that it will indicate how many employees at a particular location could be exposed to some health hazard.

“If IH determines through air-sampling that workers may be at risk because of the nature of the job, then they are enrolled in the program. IH recommends, and then we work in collaboration with Base Safety and supervisors to get these workers in here to do the medical surveillance. It’s all part of the Voluntary Protection Program (VPP)," explained Schoonover.

With engineering controls, PPE, and medical surveillance screening, NHC Corpus Christi occupational health staff help protect workers’ lungs from possible volatile hazards exposure. The screening consists of properly coaching the worker to inhale as much air as possible, and then steadily blow and exhale through the mouthpiece of a handheld device connected to a computer that measures lung function, specifically the amount (volume) and/or speed (flow) of air that can be inhaled and exhaled. For many, it’s a chore. But nearly all breathe a sigh of relief when finished.

Protecting the health of individual workers is a primary objective of various workplace surveillance programs. Results from an individual should be further assessed if abnormalities are detected or if pulmonary function values show a consistent decline in comparison to the individual’s previous tests. After ruling out technical causes for low or declining pulmonary function, efforts must be made to identify the cause. If the cause is related to a workplace exposure, then steps must be taken to better control or eliminate the exposure.

“We are proactive, we are out there identifying the population at risk, we’re doing the medical surveillance, performing the test and remain vigilant in our efforts to protect all of our workers,” said Schoonover.