In our Staff Spotlight posts, we feature an Institute staff member and share with the community a behind-the-scenes through a question and answer session to learn more about their research areas, career path and goals, but most importantly recognize their efforts.
For our first Staff Spotlight of 2022, we interviewed Sam Greenspan, M.P.H. Sam is a Research Assistant 2 in Dr. David Hurtado’s Lab where he supports research to improve the health and safety of healthcare workers
Tell us about yourself (career path, goals, anything you want us to know, etc.)
“I first started at the institute as a temporary research assistant in Dr. David Hurtado’s lab as he was investigating the health and well-being of Parole Probation Officers. I had just received my master’s in public health and had worked for years previously at multiple residential mental health facilities. I saw substantial burnout, turnover, unclear protocols and gaps in client care from my previous work experience, which was part of the reason why I pursued health research.
As Dr. Hurtado’s research focus shifted towards the health and safety of healthcare workers, I took the opportunity to join his lab full-time. I’ve always been fascinated with how best practices are established in the workplace, their feasibility in the field and how they can be evaluated and optimized for diverse work teams. Learning all of this on the job has been invaluable but most importantly, it’s been great to see how they can have a positive impact on health.
I’m currently pursuing a doctorate in occupational therapy at Pacific University in order to return to working more directly with clients and other healthcare workers. In the future, I hope to align the skills and experiences I’ve gained at the institute with the clinical skills I am developing at Pacific to implement and optimize emerging best practices such as aging in place programs, where occupational therapists can play a large role.”
What current research projects are you working on?
“Along with Drs. David Hurtado, Leslie Hammer, Abigail Lenhart and Teresa Everson, the primary project I’ve been working on recently is Oregon Healthy Workforce Center’s Work-Life Check-ins, an intervention for supervisors, designed to optimize the health and well-being of healthcare workers. The objective is to regularly designate brief check-ins where an individual worker can confidentially share as much or as little of their experience to their supervisor so the workplace can run more efficiently and support work-life balance. Supervisors then empathize with what they can’t address and make an honest effort to change what they can. Over time, we hope check-ins can build trust and greater belonging in the workplace and greater productivity. Preliminary evidence suggests they can lead to less burnout and less turnover. To assess the feasibility of check-ins and determine essential training components, I’ve recruited participants, coordinated and ran interviews, collected data and conducted the qualitative analysis. I’ve also helped develop training materials and tools such as a check-in checklist for supervisors. Our plan to publish the results of this feasibility pilot before we begin implementation across multiple healthcare clinics over the next few years.
In addition to that, I’ve also been working to expand an effective safe patient handling program we implemented at a rural hospital in the past that significantly reduced musculoskeletal injuries among nurses. We suspect that this program can be optimized to positively impact patients too given that worker and patient outcomes are closely interrelated.
Outside of these projects, I have supported occupational health initiatives at OHSU. OHSU established a COVID Wellness Task Force and asked Institute scientists, Drs. Leslie Hammer and David Hurtado to serve on the task force and assist in developing and evaluating a Wellness Pulse Survey with Dr. Abigail Lenhart. I helped disseminate the electronic survey and write the brief reports on an initiative of the OHSU COVID Wellness Task Force to regularly gauge community members’ perceived safety, health and well-being; and to measure the use and perceived helpfulness of new and existing resources.”
What do you like most about working for OHSU/the Institute/occupational health research?
“The institute has been so supportive of exploring new ways to disseminate and share cutting-edge research and its impact on Oregonians through the “What’s Work Got to Do with it” podcast. It’s been a blast to produce and edit that with you Helen and our colleague, Anjali as we learned about the wide variety of basic and applied research conducted at the institute and to be able to share all of the free resources for organizations interested in optimizing their workplace.
I come from a family of healthcare workers, so having the opportunity to positively impact the health and well-being of others in this workforce has been very rewarding and meaningful to me. I also appreciate that Dr. Hurtado and the institute have always been supportive as I’ve explored additional education and past volunteer opportunities I’ve taken at Shriner’s Children Hospital, the Oregon Community Fund and the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center.”
What are your favorite hobbies outside of work? Home-life is very important to our health and well-being and is interconnected to our work-life.
“Outside of work, I really enjoy exploring the outdoors here in Oregon, riding my bike around town, doing yoga, rock climbing and playing music in the local indie rock scene. Writing music and being active helps me blow off steam and stay balanced by doing something creative and fun. You can even hear instrumentals of some of my music in each podcast episode. ”
Check out Sam’s blog during his time supporting a safety champion study for rural hospitals.
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