Supervisor Makes the Right Call for Employee Medical Care
The role of a supervisor often involves wearing many hats including handling employee workplace injuries. Though many supervisors receive training in how to respond to worksite injuries, they do not have the medical expertise required to provide the most appropriate recommendations for medical treatment. Therefore, this response often involves a guessing game. Is an ER visit really the most appropriate course of action? Should the employee wait until symptoms get worse to seek medical treatment?
Supervisor Makes the Right Call
Robert, an electrician for a municipal utilities company, was working at a client’s property when he noticed an issue with the transformer. As he attempted to service the transformer, there was a loud explosion and bright flash. Robert had no visible injuries but experienced ringing in his right ear and loss of hearing in his left ear. Following company protocols, the substitute supervisor called Company Nurse’s Triage Hotline to report the incident and seek care advice for Robert’s potential injuries. The substitute supervisor expressed unfamiliarity with the process but emphasized that he wanted to see if there was anything that could be done “now instead of later.” His primary concern was that Robert might have an eye injury that he called a “welder’s flash burn” resulting from close exposure to the bright flash that occurred during the explosion.
As triage nurse Dorothy familiarized herself with the incident and Robert’s symptoms, she determined that he required immediate medical attention for his ears. With her medical training and experience she knew that sudden loss of hearing and ringing in the ears can be signs of serious damage to the eardrum. Concerned for Robert’s health and wellness, Dorothy noted that there was a small window of time to effectively treat this type of injury. She referred Robert to the employer’s designated medical facility and assured both the supervisor and Robert that she would also note on his report the concern for eye injury. This was a simple solution that probably mitigated and possibly avoided a significant exposure for the employer.
Right Care at Right Time
The triage nurse was able to alleviate supervisor’s concerns about making a medical treatment decision. In many work environments, supervisors don’t want to be involved in deciding when and where an employee should be sent for medical care. In this specific incident, the substitute supervisor was not familiar with the claims process and company protocols. Like most supervisors, he wanted to do what was best for the injured employee and company, but he did not realize Robert’s ears required immediate medical attention.
It is common for supervisors to err on the side of caution and refer injured workers to the ER when it is sometimes unnecessary. On the contrary, some supervisors may advise injured workers to wait and see if symptoms arise before directing them to an occupational health clinic. In doing so, they potentially miss the urgent window of time necessary for the injury to be treated effectively. Luckily, in Robert’s case, his supervisor took a proactive approach and sought professional medical advice for his employee sooner rather than later.
There is a window of opportunity immediately following a workplace injury to better address the employee’s course of medical treatment. Directing employees to appropriate, cost-effective care is a key component in successful medical demand management. By leveraging a nurse triage hotline on the day of injury, employers can not only eliminate the guessing game by making sure employees are referred to the appropriate medical care, but also prevent unnecessary medical costs and legal fees.