03 26 ray glasgow savarise recipe for success header
Jen Rosio, University of Utah Health
Recipe for Success: Enhancing Surgeon Well-Being
Chronic musculoskeletal pain and injury among surgeons due to poor operating room ergonomics is a prevalent issue impacting the well-being and performance of surgical faculty. At the University of Utah Health, concerns over the high prevalence of work-related pain and injuries led to the initiation of a project aimed at addressing this critical issue.

ork-related chronic musculoskeletal pain and injuries are widespread among surgeons, primarily stemming from suboptimal operating room ergonomics. This project aimed to define the prevalence of such pain and injuries, assess surgeons' knowledge of operating room ergonomics, educate on optimization techniques, and intervene to alleviate pain or injury.

Analysis revealed a common occurrence of chronic pain and injury among surgeons at the University of Utah Health. A comprehensive surgeon survey was conducted to assess the prevalence of work-related pain, knowledge of operating room ergonomics, and gaps in understanding. Preliminary data highlighted significant findings:

  • 50-60% reported work-related pain, including chronic neck, back, and shoulder pain.
  • 15-20% experienced defined injuries.
  • 50% acknowledged gaps in understanding proper operating room ergonomics.
  • Only 1.5% of general surgery training programs in the US addressed ergonomics formally.

With these findings in mind, the team set out a goal to reduce surgeon work-related injury and/or chronic pain stemming from poor optimization of operating room ergonomics in all surgeons from 25% to 10%.

The following recipe outlines actionable steps for enhancing surgeon well-being through operating room ergonomics, based on the successful strategies employed in this project.


  • Surgeon Engagement: Ensure active participation and buy-in from surgeons to address work-related pain and injuries.
  • Data Collection Tools: Utilize comprehensive surveys to assess the prevalence of chronic pain, injury rates, and knowledge gaps regarding operating room ergonomics.
  • Educational Resources: Develop informative materials to educate surgeons on optimizing ergonomic variables and preventing work-related pain and injuries.
  • Collaborative Partnerships: Forge alliances with Physical Therapy departments to provide evaluation and treatment for affected surgeons.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation Tools: Implement post-intervention resurveys to track progress and effectiveness of improvement strategies.


1. Assess the Baseline State:

Conduct a thorough survey to determine the prevalence of work-related chronic pain, injury rates, and knowledge gaps in operating room ergonomics.

2. Problem Investigation:

Analyze survey data to identify prevalent pain areas, injury types, and understanding levels of operating room ergonomics among surgeons.

3. Method for Improvement:

  • Educational Campaign:
    • Develop resources outlining the importance of optimizing operating room ergonomics to minimize work-related pain and injuries.
    • Disseminate materials through departmental meetings, workshops, and online platforms.
  • Collaboration with Physical Therapy:
    • Partner with physical therapy departments to offer evaluation and treatment services for surgeons experiencing work-related pain or injuries.
    • Facilitate access to ergonomic evaluations and personalized treatment plans.

4. Implementation of Interventions:

  • Roll out the educational campaign, ensuring active engagement and participation from surgeons.
  • Collaborate closely with physical therapy departments to provide seamless evaluation and treatment services.

5. Monitor and Evaluate Results:

  • Conduct post-intervention surveys to assess the impact of initiatives and collaborative interventions.
  • Track progress in reducing work-related pain and injuries among surgeons.

6. Analyze Results and Refine Strategies:

  • Analyze post-intervention survey findings to identify areas of success and areas needing further improvement.
  • Adjust strategies based on feedback and outcomes.

7. Results and Next Steps:

  • Celebrate successes in reducing work-related pain and injuries among surgeons.
  • Address any remaining barriers and continue refining strategies for ongoing enhancement of surgeon well-being.

Serving Instructions:

  • Share insights and outcomes with stakeholders to foster collaboration.
  • Emphasize the importance of ongoing education and collaboration.

Notes for Successful Implementation:

  • Maintain open communication channels with surgeons.
  • Continuously monitor progress and adjust strategies.
  • Foster a culture of wellness and support within the surgical department.

Yvonne C. Savarise

DPT, University of Utah Health

Mark Savarise

MD, FACS, University of Utah Health

Subscribe to our newsletter

Receive the latest insights in health care impact, improvement, leadership, resilience, and more.