Protecting Healthcare Employees

Employers have the responsibility of ensuring a safe workplace for their employees. Healthcare workers specifically risk injuries, needle sticks, bloodborne pathogens, and airborne diseases but regulations are in place to afford them the proper personal protection equipment (PPE) needed to keep themselves safe on the job.

While COVID-19 has temporarily upended much of the rules that are in place to help health workers, healthcare staff are struggling to get the basic tool required to keep themselves safe.

Regularly, the Occasional Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), who has drafted regulations to protect employees from workplace harm, enforces the rules by identifying hazards and charging employers to fix any problems found through interviews and investigation. Employers are given a timeline to right any wrongs and reevaluated at a future date.

The skeleton of the safety laws Americans have today were put in place because of employee unions. Child labor laws, overtime pay and the basic injury protection laws all came about when workers banded together and fought for their rights.

As of this writing, hospitals are running critically low on the basic PPE required to prevent healthcare workers from contracting the airborne 2019-nCoV. My employer is having us reuse one-time use surgical masks for two full weeks before we are issued a replacement. Just this week a doctor whom I work for advised us to wear our gloves all day and use hand sanitizer or alcohol swabs on them to keep them clean throughout the day.

Of course there will not be any OSHA inspections during the pandemic but healthcare workers need to be protected. Those of us in out-patient ophthalmology should not get any PPE before the frontline staff who are battling COVID-19, but we definitely deserve to be safe. Unfortunately, that is hard to do when supplies are so low.

First and foremost, those working to care for those with COVID-19 need to be taken care of– PPE, compensation, mental health assistance, at the very minimum. Second to that, anyone who is an “essential employee” should be guaranteed their own PPE. After all, the whistleblower who brought international attention to, and ultimately died from, this novel coronavirus was an ophthalmologist, not a frontline worker.

I for one feel that healthcare workers, including those eyecare, could stand to unionize. While doctors and nurses are at least granted a living wage, many of us techs in optometry and ophthalmology (EMTs and as well as medical assistants) are not. Some states pay as low as minimum wage to $10 an hour for these workers and many are essential health employees. COVID-19 has taught everyone something and for me it is how we truly treat our healthcare workers when the going gets tough.


Hiring AI

Once the stuff of science fiction, artificial intelligence is fast becoming a staple to how people process information around the world. Staffing an office is not immune to this technological advancement. With so many businesses and organizations implementing AI to aid in the hiring process, is it the best way to screen job candidates?

Technology has been making our lives easier since the invention of the wheel and as tech improves, our jobs shift. The manpower behind sifting through thousands of applications, finding several candidates, interviewing them and deciding who is the best individual for the job can take weeks or months to do. Introducing AI to the equation allows people to get back to doing the tasks that they are better equipped to managing. In addition to freeing up workers, time can be saved exponentially– by having a computer quickly scan applicant information, what once took months is sorted to its appropriate file in minutes. Additionally, artificial intelligence is designed to avoid the unconscious bias that humans may unfortunately possess (Khandelwal & Upadhyay, 2018). Whereas managers may subconsciously seek out those with attributes similar to their own, AI does not have this base of traits to compare against (Eberhardt, 2019). However it can learn to be biased.

Artificial intelligence learns through inputs and trial and error; when the information it receives is biased, the way in which it functions can become biased (Shane, 2019). When screening applicants, AI will often lean more toward male candidates (Raub, 2018). Similarly, candidates with “ethnic” names are less likely to be picked over those with Anglo names like Paul or Robert, leading to a racial bias (Shane, 2019). If candidates are lucky enough to get the green light to a telecommunication interview, a face detecting software can monitor facial movements. Those with certain facial features or head coverings may not be detected as well as others and can therefore not rank as highly as those with more symmetrical faces. 

As much as we would like it to be, the science just is not there yet. Artificial intelligence is not capable enough to do what humans want it to do without the various hiccups and mistakes it presents. Perhaps one day technology will meet our candidacy screening needs but for now, AI is too young; where we are asking it to be multifaceted in hiring people, realistically, AI can only do one tiny job at a time (Shane, 2019). Until a computerized hiring manger can fairly screen applicants, it is best it stays on the back burner.  


Eberhardt, J. (2019). Biased: uncovering the hidden prejudice that shapes what we see, think and do. Viking. New York.

Khandelwal, K. & Upadhyay, A. (2018), “Applying artificial intelligence: implications for recruitment”, Strategic HR Review, Vol. 17 No. 5, pp. 255-258.

Raub, M. (2018). Bots, bias and big data: artificial intelligence, algorithmic bias and disparate impact liability in hiring practices. Arkansas Law Review. Vol 71.2. pp 529-570.

Shane, J. (2019). You look like a thing and I love you. New York. Voracious.