Innovative brace developed at Niagara Health

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Posted Jul 18th, 2016 in News

You might call Krystle Etherington a professional problem solver. As the Niagara Health Safe Patient Handling Consultant, Mrs. Etherington finds solutions to help staff recovering from injury and illness return to work. One reoccurring issue for Niagara Health staff with repetitive motion hand and wrist injuries presented her with a major challenge.

“The individual would be in a return-to-work meeting and they would be wearing a splint or brace,” says Mrs. Etherington. “They couldn’t perform patient care if they had to wear it at all times because it couldn’t be cleaned as needed. We would have to keep them at a desk.”

Over-the-counter splints and braces don’t meet Infection Prevention and Control regulations as the cloth and Velcro material they’re made from can’t be washed. This means staff who interact with patients can’t return to their full duties until their injury is healed enough to take off their splint.

Mrs. Etherington reached out to dozens of her counterparts at hospitals across the country to see if washable braces existed. When it became apparent that no such splint was readily available, she decided it was time for her to create one.

“In my mind, in most cases there is a solution to something,” says Mrs. Etherington. “It’s just finding someone who’s willing to listen and adapt to what you need.”

Alan Rigby, owner of Niagara Prosthetics and Orthotics, turned out to be the partner Mrs. Etherington needed. Mr. Rigby’s company, which has a location at Niagara Health’s St. Catharines Site, creates custom orthotics and prosthetics for a wide range of needs. 

“Krystle was kind of the physiology and infection control requirement brain and I was the mechanical person that came and said, ‘What can we make?’” says Mr. Rigby.

The custom braces Mrs. Etherington and Mr. Rigby designed and created are made of blended plastic and nylon cord lacing that is adjustable, but most importantly they’re also washable.

“It’s exciting to work on these kinds of projects where it’s a very specific need and something that can be fulfilled in terms of a collaborative approach,” says Mr. Rigby. “To work with Krystle has been fantastic. She’s very creative, very clever and very articulate about what she needs.”

The braces are already speeding up the back-to-work process for some Niagara Health staff members suffering from repetitive motion strains and the reaction has been positive.

“People don’t want to be off work,” says Mrs. Etherington. “They do what they do because they like to do it. Yes, they’re hurt but they want to get back as soon as possible. This allows them to do that.”

“This innovation is just one example of how Krystle plays an important role in removing barriers to returning our staff to their full duties,” says Flo Paladino, Niagara Health’s Executive Vice President of People and Organizational Development.  “Krystle’s demeanour, professionalism and open-mindedness set her apart, yet she remains humble about her many great accomplishments.” 

Mrs. Etherington was recently recognized for her innovation at the Niagara Health Awards of Excellence event. She says it has always been one of her career goals to develop and create something.

“I like what I do because I like helping people,” says Mrs. Etherington. “It feels good.”
Media Contact: Melissa Raftis, Communications Specialist. 905-378-4647 ext. 43872 melissa.raftis@niagarahealth.on.ca

Niagara Health System