News & Events

MNA and UMass Lowell host east coast’s first workplace hazards conference for nurses

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
September 2007 Edition

By Evelyn Bain, M Ed, RN, COHN-S
Associate Director/Coordinator, Health & Safety

Close to 150 nurses and health care workers attended the east coast’s first “Workplace Hazards Conference for Nurses and Healthcare Workers” in Marlboro on June 7 and 8.

The conference, which was co-provided by the MNA and UMass Lowell, provided attendees with an opportunity to learn about the findings of UMass’ NIOSH-funded research project—Providing Healthy and Safe Employment (PHASE) in Healthcare—and to meet with both non-profit and for-profit exhibitors that specialized in new products and services related to safe work environments.

Conference speakers included both local and national researchers and experts, and the focus of presentations focused on hazard prevention. The specific health care industry workplace hazards that were addressed included needlestick injuries, home care injuries, latex allergies, occupational asthma, pandemic flu, infectious diseases, hazardous drugs and workplace violence.

A sampling of post-event comments from conference attendees supported the event’s value. “A lot of great information to take back to my co-workers,” wrote one participant. “I would attend this event again,” wrote another, “so that I could go to the other sessions I wasn’t able to get to this week.” Other comments included “very informational” and “the conference was a proactive approach to changing culture for all health care workers.”

This educational event was designed to provide participants with the most time possible for interactive learning in breakout-session formats. As part of these sessions attendees had a one-on-one opportunity to ask questions, share experiences, learn about local resources and get specific recommendations on how to improve safety in their work environments.

MNA members from the Congress on Health and Safety and the Workplace Violence and Abuse Prevention Task Force had spent the greater part of their time since January 2007 preparing for this event. Prior to the conference, educators from the Labor Extension Program at UMass Lowell developed a specific training module to prepare these congress and task force members as facilitators, recorders and timekeepers for the conference’s breakout sessions. These same members were also responsible for developing key questions and for utilizing them in sessions as a way of providing feedback to all conference participants on the proceedings and recommendations from each group.

MNA members who participated in planning and facilitating the program included: Liz O’Connor and Mary Anne Dillon from Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Terri Arthur from Jordan Hospital; Mary Bellistri from Boston Medical Center; Sandy LeBlanc from Newton Wellesley Hospital; Gail Lenehan from Massachusetts General Hospital; Kate Opanasets from Faulkner Hospital; Kathy Sperrazza from UMass Lowell; Judy Rose from Cape Cod VNA; Kathleen McDonald and Janice Homer from New England Medical Center; Rosemary O’Brien, retired from the state’s DMR sector; and Noreen Hogan, a clinical specialist with a private practice.

Thanks to Margaret Quinn, ScD, and Craig Slatin, ScD, both professors in the School of Health and Environment at UMass Lowell. Their year-long collaboration with the MNA helped to make this program possible. A document will be released later this year that highlights the recommendations that came out of the conference’s various breakout sessions. It will appear in a future edition of the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter and online. To review some of the conference-related presentations, visit the Workplace Hazards conference page or e-mail Evie Bain at