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The importance of ergonomics ( for Clairfaise)

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The importance of ergonomics ( for Clairfaise)

Post by Seana on Wed Feb 18, 2015 3:36 am

This article has been too long in coming, but I did promise to do this for someone from Reddit and as I'm just now making parts of it happen, I thought I would take the time to discuss the ergonomics of doing electrolysis.
First let me catch others up on where this conversation starts. I've noticed on Reddit and Tumblr a transgender gal from California. She has been collecting money on idiegogo to put herself through electrolysis school . Here link is here if anyone is interested:

If the goal of what she is trying to accomplish looks familiar to anyone, there's a good reason for it i. I wish her a lot of luck. It's very similar to what I tried to accomplish, and an amiable goal. I have about a half dozen cases I'm working on on a pro-bono basis that are the result of this path. I wasnt ever able to raise a dime on indiegogo ( probably because I didnt promote my campain at all) and claire does seem to have had some success, but not enough to get her going.
Being the ever helpful person I am, My brain instantly started to digest the budget she had proposed, you see I can make suggestions based on actually DOING the WORK. And a lot of those suggestions, boil down to ergonomics and start up costs..

Once a person is trained to perform electrolysis, you still have to perform the work. Which means you need to be able to devote money and time to HOW you will work, and to me, this is probably one of the most important qualities of an electrologist because it dictated how LONG you are able to work, and how effectively. And it happens this is where Claire wasnt thinking ahead ( and neither did I!). She had budgeted for a top of the line Xcell machine, her tuition, and some living expenses, but when asked what she was going to use for a bench to work on, for magnification, for sterilization, there werent any answers because this ( admittedly by her) hadnt been thought about.She was under the impression she could obtain some of these things on the cheap. I happen to know how that strategy works out, and it's many many flaws. You see, when i started doing electrolysis, I was flat broke( I still am!) and had to ask my partner with help buying a machine( since repaid). I bought a circle loop, and my partner supplied an old medical bench as well. The reason for this, is I dont bring in any money to speak of from my electrolysis. I give it away in order to have a constant supply of skin to work on and to benefit members of my local transgender community and this means there is no money to buy needed equipment. This is the catch 22 with giving away services, is it still costs for the equipment and supplies to do so, but you arent getting the income to support such purchases.Actually, from the $20 handed to me from sessions on occasion, if I added it all up (most of it from one person I work on) I still would not have covered the initial cost of my machine alone. So, I've made do with what I can get. So lets look at what this means in practical terms.

My Setup:
I work on a medical bench. Actually it's this one:

And actually, that's my whole setup. I'm a long legged girl, so I dont have to put the pedal off the ground most times but I have in the past. It looks good at least clean and neat. And I want to be fair, that my friend and mentor James Walker warned me against this setup something he knows well having fought with these issues throughout his lengthly and distinguished career.And HE WAS RIGHT.

So here is a short laundry list of what is wrong with this setup:
#1 I cannot get my legs underneath the bench in order to get close enough to work. The result it I am considerably hunched over to get over the magnifier ( which is over the patient on the table). By the end of an hour, my back is in extreme pain from the multiple positions I must assume to work.
#2 In this hunched over position I find it exceedingly dificult to support my arms and hands to work and insertion accuracy suffers..
#3 the stool, being tall enough to get me over the client, means that I am often pressing the electrolysis pedal with my toe instead of my heel as I'd like it to be. Sometimes I put it on top of a metal box to correct this but that has it's own set of problems.
#4 The stool itself is not height adustable, and is not designed at all like a saddle stool usually used for this purpose, resulting in the edge of the seat pressing into the leg I am using the pedal on.

#6 The magnifying loop while a great tool to have, does not provide the level of magnification that is desireable to perform electrolysis. I can see the follicles through it, but not well enough to make a huge difference in insertions. It's okay, but nort ideal.

#7 the bench itself is rather hard to lie on. It's padded but only a little bit,as it's meant for quick patient observation, and not to be lay upon for an hour or two. Now I should state my longest standing client is mosly disabled and has sciatic nerve issues. I've had to switch to using a couch or bed to work on her.
#8 I have no lighting in evidence other than the loop itself.I can tell you that the lighting and angle of the light is crucial to being able to see lighter hairs.

So have you pictured it yet? There's Seana perched on the edge of a high stool, hands almost at eye level and supporting themselves, and bent WAY OVER so I can look through the loop at the optimal focal length and not ever able to get close enough to my client to work well . stretching down with one foot to operate the pedal, and doing this upwards of 20 hours a week. After a year of doing so, I can tell you after 15 minutes my back is hurting, and after 2 hours of this I am done for the day, and my shoulders ache excessively all evening. After a year of doing this, I am all done. Either I stop doing electrolysis now, or I address the ergonomics issues that allow me to work. There is no middle ground.

Some months ago, I was invited to talk to another electrologist in town who is a CPE, and has been needing another electrologist to work with her. I went out, and we talked, and I got a good chance to see how the other half works. How does someone who is doing this for a 40 hour work week managing not to twist their back into a pretzel? Well the answer, is ergonomics.
I'll describe her setup in as much detail as I can remember. She had a hydrolic bench, but the interesting part was how low the benchwas situated. It was approximately 18 - 24 inches off the ground. She was much shorter than I, and her legs just slid underneath them. she used a properly adjusted saddle stool. Her magnification she used was n expensive ( I think she told me $5000) set of optical loops hanging off her prescription glasses which included a rechargeable battery pack and LED lighting source. On trying out her loops I was immediately amazed by how far away from the subject she had to be sitting, things didnt start to come into focus until she was about 15 inches from the subject but even though the magnification was not quite as high as my circle lamp, things were much clearer.. So what does this mean in terms of working?

She is able to sit with her legs under the bench, upright and just looking down, and have the area she is working, and her hands, right about where her lap should be. There was no hard ledge to press into her thigh from the chair she sits in. This is far and beyond what Iam able to achieve, and it means she is able to work those longer hours and pay for her rent and supplies and her time. It's what I now aspire to accomplish.

Aside from the obvious physical ergonomic issues, there are other concerns. As an electrologist you need to sterilize things like tweezers. This requires an autoclave. Then there is WHERE you work. It has to be clean and presentable and exude comfort. For me, I work out of the bedrooom in my home. This is okay when I am doing freebie work which is most of the time, but if I start bringing in paying clients, then it wont do. I will need a dedicated space, and preferably one not in my home. Being able to provide enough of the right light, also becomes critical.

So Clairfaise , there is the crux of my minor criticism of your plans. I'm going to echo your own electrologists words, and say that while you can work with substandard equipment for a little while, start working more than a little bit and for an extended period of time and you will not be able to continue. The ergonomics are that important. Here's my starting plan to correct some of the issues in my setup. Immediately I am replacing my bench, this weekend in fact (just 3 more client sessions onthe old bench to go!) , with a nice hydrolic unit that adjusts height and I can get my legs under. That is being purchased and dragged home this weekend. Next will be a replacemnt stool. Then I have two expensive additions to my setup, a medical microscope that my friend James has offered at a good price, but that is assuming that the ergonomics of using it actually work out, and that will definitely be a trial and error process. The second major expense,is going to be a new place to work. My kid is moving out of the basement, and I'll have to renovate a space and add walls, flooring and ceiling and make it all look pretty. Or go work with someone else out of a commercial space.
The flaw in my plan, is costs. Remembering that I dont usually work for pay, and you will realize that despite half my week being spent doing this, I'm not covering even half my equipment costs. I've long recieved criticism from my peers that I dont charge enough. And I have to be honest and say that my clients dont always respect what I put into their free hair removal, or fully appreciate what it costs me. I have taken on my last pro-bono client. I will be finishing off the folks I have, but not taking on any more. I think that if in over a year of offering free service, if someone hasnt taken advantage of that, they dont really NEED the treatment. It's a little harsh, but it's time I start taking onprimarily paying clients, and charging a realistic rate. It is the only way I will be able to pay for the equipment I need to continue working, and the option is not to workat all. I enjoy doing electrolysis and dont want to stop, so it's time I look at it from a business perspective, and once trained, you will need to be that way as well, or frankly you wont be able to accomplish your goal.

My sugestion to Claire, and to myself as well, is address the ergonomics as a primary concern, then limit how much you are giving away so you can pay for what you need to do the free work. I'm taking my own advice. I'm doubling my "for -pay" rate to $50 an hour. I am not accepting any more pro-bono clients and will be working to finish off those I have. I may do some sliding scale work for transgender clients to help them out with costs, but no longer at the expense of paying for everything myself. If doing this cant pay for itself, then I'll be disappointed, but I cant afford to subsidize others treatment. I have to be honest and say that it's not always appreciated as much as it should be.



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