You won’t believe the summer I’ve had!

Lindsay in the forest.
Lindsey in the forest.

I am climbing through trees and over snags, nowhere near a clear hiking trail, trying to keep up with a forester who knows the route like the back of their hand. I’ve almost reached them when – OOF! My foot falls straight through a dead log and I’m up to my thigh in bugs and mulch. It’s just another day on the job for both of us, except tomorrow I’ll trade my hiking boots for dress flats to be stationed in a call center, observing employee postures and workstation use. My name is Lindsey Alley, and I’m the Senior Research Assistant for the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC).

Part of our work here at the OHWC is to conduct “needs assessments” or preliminary investigations, to get a real sense of what is going on in organizations we hope to work with in the future. My role, specifically, is to plan, coordinate, and conduct these micro-studies in consultation with our Principal Investigators (PIs). Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, we aim to paint a comprehensive picture of the supports, barriers, resources, and relationships present within each distinct occupational context; so that we can best determine how to intervene in the most impactful, beneficial way possible. While our PIs are primarily focused on one, maybe two, of these work settings, I have the unique and exciting challenge of becoming an expert in all of them simultaneously.

So, as you can imagine, the past six months have been quite an adventure! I have trudged through streams and forged mountains, trailing workers in the forest industry. I have participated in nurses’ Safe Patient Handling classes and conducted in-depth observations and interviews with healthcare staff throughout Oregon. I have administered surveys across call center employees and conducted full ergonomic assessments of their workspaces. And, I have developed a wealth of new and delightful relationships with workers and administrators in each setting. I have never met so many truly wonderful people.

One of the most encouraging aspects of my experience throughout all of this has been to witness the level of overwhelming support granted to us by the top-tier administrators in these organizations. Despite the wide variation in the types of work performed and workers employed across these diverse fields, the message has remained the same: “Employee health and well-being are our absolute top priorities. We care about these people and want to do what is best for everyone.” Truly inspirational.

It has been a joy to perform work with such broad potential for positive impact. Not everyone gets to be a nurse, a forester, a housekeeper, an office worker, a researcher, a writer, and a data analyst in the same summer; and perhaps not everyone would want to. Maybe I’m just a masochist, but golly it’s been fun!

Lindsey Alley with OHWC Principal Investigator's Donald Truxillo and Ryan Olson.
Lindsey with OHWC Principal Investigators Donald Truxillo and Ryan Olson.

If you are interested in having us visit your worksite and learn more about the unique challenges and needs of your organization, contact the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center at (503) 494-3492, or visit us on the web.

* Thank you to Layla Mansfield and Allison Schue, who have been my right and left hands in performing this work. You are both amazing!

Submitted by: Lindsey Alley, Senior Research Assistant, Oregon Healthy Workforce Center & Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences