OHS nurses provide medical support for local manufacturing plant
It's 7:15 a.m., and Kristin Rasmussen is pulling into the parking lot at Behlen Mfg. Co. in Columbus. Rasmussen, a registered nurse, has worked in various health care settings throughout her career. Her latest assignment brings her to the local manufacturing plant — a position she said keeps her very busy.
"The first thing I do each morning is set up a hearing booth to prepare for pre-employment screenings," Rasmussen said. "As I wait for my screenings to arrive, I answer medical-related questions from staff, triage, provide first aid or draft workers’ compensation paperwork."
Rasmussen is one of two individuals who currently serve as plant nurses for Behlen Mfg. Co., a company that produces farm and ranch equipment, grain storage systems, strip joiners and metal buildings. The nurses’ presence at the plant is thanks to a partnership with Columbus Community Hospital's Occupational Health Services (OHS).
In 2018, plant leadership decided to stop having a full-time employed nurse on-site. Still, they knew they wanted to maintain high-level safety standards for their employees, so they approached OHS to fill the void.
"It was important for us to have a full-time nurse at the facility to help uphold our core value of safety," said Heather Macholan, president of custom fabrication, BTM & presses at Behlen. "The safety of our employees is important to us. We know they perform best when they feel safe."
"Our partnership with OHS helps to provide the necessary skills we need at our nursing station," said Jon Rauner, director of human resources at Behlen. "Having the support from OHS ensures we have trained professionals with the necessary skills and credentials to care for our employees."
In October 2021, Trish Inselman, LPN, joined the group, and it wasn't her first time in a manufacturing setting. She was previously the facility nurse at Cargill in Schuyler, Nebraska.
As the on-site plant nurses, Rasmussen and Inselman work from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Rasmussen is scheduled at the facility Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, with Inselman providing support Tuesdays and Thursdays. When they are not at the plant, they work at OHS.
While at Behlen, they are responsible for managing first aid, filing injury reports for workers' compensation, handling open workers’ compensation cases and finding light-duty work for injured employees. As nurses in a factory setting, they treat injuries they usually do not see at OHS. They said familiarizing themselves with the manufacturing machines helped further expand their first aid knowledge and assist in triaging injuries.
"Our plant nurses work closely with our safety director and workers’ compensation company to provide the insight they need from a medical standpoint," Rauner said. "The nurses work with both the paperwork and people side of each workers' compensation case by answering questions and ensuring we handle the situations properly. They are an excellent resource with a wealth of information, and serve as a great asset to our team."
The nurses also conduct pre-employment physicals and drug, hearing and respiratory testing for all employees, which helps Behlen remain compliant with annual requirements. On average, they complete two to three pre-employment screenings per day, with each one consisting of a physical, drug, hearing and respiratory test.
"If someone doesn't pass their physical, we set up a med hold with Columbus Family Practice to get them cleared," Rasmussen said. "The turnaround time on the pre-employment screenings is rather quick to allow employees to attend orientation the following Monday."
While the daily roles and responsibilities keep Rasmussen and Inselman busy, they also support the company's wellness committee through annual health fairs, blood drives and vaccine clinics.
Behlen provides various wellness opportunities throughout the year and hosts a blood drive every three to four months. Rasmussen serves as the main point of contact, scheduling the programs and individual registrations and notifying the necessary supervisors. Then, depending on the day, she will oversee the event to ensure it runs smoothly.
The nurses also work with CCH's Rehab Services to provide on-site therapy for employees once a week.
"In addition to the therapy exercises the employee receives from CCH's Rehab Services, we work with the employees to help relax and strengthen their muscles," Inselman said. "Behlen has an on-site gym, which allows us to work with employees and provide assistance for their treatment. We need to keep track of these details so we can keep everyone safe."
For Rasmussen and Inselman, much of their work at Behlen is similar to their work at OHS. Both nurses are certified to perform hearing, drug and alcohol tests. Still, most of the additional work falls within the scope of their nursing practice.
In addition to maintaining their nursing certifications, Rasmussen and Inselman recertify every five years to maintain their alcohol and drug testing certification for DOT and non-DOT compliance standards.
For Behlen, having the plant nurses on-site and contracted through OHS provides cost savings and stability, and gives the company a resource for the most up-to-date information on Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Department of Transportation regulations.
"It's peace of mind knowing we have someone available to handle the situation, big or small, if someone has a medical issue or question," Rauner said. "They are always looking out for us and putting our employees’ safety first."
It is no secret that maintaining high safety standards and protecting its employees is a top priority for Behlen; therefore, hiring a full-time on-site nurse was an obvious choice. Rasmussen and Inselman serve as the medical experts at the facility and uphold the safety core values. They have continued to expand their nursing skills, proudly serve their community and make new connections.
"I enjoy being part of the Behlen team and helping out within the community," Inselman said. "They have been an excellent partner and are appreciative of the work we provide to the facility. It is definitely a great place to work."
For more information on Columbus Community Hospital's Occupational Health Services, visit columbushosp.org.