News & Events

MNA partners with UMass Lowell in grant to protect home health care practitioners

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
January/February 2005 Edition

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has awarded the University of Massachusetts Lowell a four-year $2 million grant for prevention of needlestick injuries and blood exposures among home health care practitioners. UMass Lowell will form a partnership with industry, the MNA and other labor organizations and with state government to improve the working lives of those practitioners throughout eastern and central Massachusetts.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 600,000 to 800,000 injuries occur annually nationwide in all health care settings from needles and other sharp devices, potentially leading to hepatitis and HIV infection. Most prevention efforts have been focused on hospitals, and little attention has been given to the rapidly growing home health care industry, which is predicted to increase 68 percent within the next decade. In 2000, there were 20,655 home health care practitioners employed in Massachusetts and that number is expected to nearly double by 2008, according to First Research.

NIOSH awarded the grant to the newly established School of Health and Environment at UMass Lowell. Under the leadership of Professor Margaret Quinn in the Department of Work Environment, the research will identify working conditions which put home health care practitioners at risk of injuries like needlesticks, work with the partners to set up efficient systems for tracking and analyzing injury patterns, and design ways to help home health care providers work safely while continuing to deliver the best quality care. The new study is named Project SHARRP—Safe Homecare and Risk Reduction for Providers.

"By forming diverse partnerships within our community and by combining scientific research with education, we’ll be able to help the growing population of home health care providers lead safer, healthier and more productive lives," said Dr. Quinn.

Other members of the research team include Dr. Stephanie Chalupka of the department of nursing, Dr. David Kriebel of the department of work environment and Dr. Letitia Davis, director of the occupational health surveillance program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Project SHARRP is a collaborative effort with five leading home health care agencies and labor unions: VNA Care Network, which operates within 200 communities in the region; the UMass Memorial Home Health and Hospice in Worcester; Winchester Home Care; the MNA and the Service Employees International Union Local 2020.

"This grant perfectly reflects the mission of our new School of Health and Environment," said Dr. David H. Wegman, dean of UML School of Health and Environment. "We’ll be able to advance safety and quality of work life in the fast-growing home health care industry, thus helping to reduce the shortage of these professionals."

"At UMass Lowell, we want to help the economy thrive, not just by adding jobs, but by making sure they are jobs people want to have," said Provost John Wooding. "That’s what a sustainable economic future is all about," he added.