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1.  What do healthcare workers in elderly care know about occupational health and safety? An explorative survey 
Demographic changes will lead to a growing demand for healthy, motivated healthcare workers (HCW) in the years ahead. Along with well-targeted prevention, knowledge of occupational health and safety and infection precaution is essential for a healthy working life. In this context back-friendly working methods and protection from infectious diseases are necessary in elderly care.
In 2012, a survey was conducted in nine residential and two semi-residential nursing homes, as well as in one home care service in the Schwerin area of northeast Germany. Four hundred and seventy three HCWs were asked to fill in a questionnaire on what they knew about aspects of occupational health and safety such as vaccinations and preventative measures administered by occupational physicians, hygiene, back-friendly working methods and infection prevention. The statistical evaluation was descriptive, with a comparison between job title. Differences were examined with chi square or Fisher's exact test.
The response rate was 28 % (n = 132). The largest group of respondents (36 %) were qualified geriatric HCWs. More than 74 % of employees felt well informed about opportunities for precautionary checks and vaccination by occupational physician, and 93 % utilized these opportunities. When it came to assigning modes of transmission to specific infectious diseases, only 23 % of participants were well informed, and one in three (31 %) care assistants was inadequately informed. Fewer than half of participants could correctly name the indications for hand disinfection. Only 66 % of the HCWs said they were aware of training offers for the management of multidrug-resistant organisms in their institution. They did know about possible aids to back-friendly working, although gaps in knowledge were apparent. Only 59 % of respondents knew that care utensils should preferably be stored at working height so as to reduce awkward body postures.
Employees in elderly care are well informed about the range of precautionary occupational medical examinations and take advantage of this offering. Questions in the survey regarding hygiene management were answered in a competent manner. On the other hand some gaps in the knowledge about infection prevention and occupational safety became apparent. Differences between qualified and unqualified participating professionals occurred only in the knowledge of infectious diseases and pathogens and the associated path of infection. The extent to which training can help to improve infection prevention and occupational health and safety should be investigated.
PMCID: PMC4583745  PMID: 26413137
Healthcare workers; Infection prevention, Elderly care, Occupational health
2.  Association between work-related biomechanical risk factors and the occurrence of carpal tunnel syndrome: an overview of systematic reviews and a meta-analysis of current research 
Occupational risks for carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) have been examined in various occupations, and several systematic reviews (SRs) have been published on this topic. There has been no critical appraisal or synthesis of the evidence in the SRs. The aims of this study are (1) to synthesise the observational evidence and evaluate the methodological quality of SRs that assess the effect of biomechanical risk factors on the development of CTS in workers, (2) to provide an update of current primary research on this association, (3) to assess a potential dose-response relationship.
We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, the Cochrane Library and the reference lists of articles. The first step covered SRs (1998–2014), and the second step covered current primary studies (2011–2014). The methodological quality of the SRs was evaluated by using the AMSTAR-R tool; primary studies were assessed using a list of 20 items. A qualitative approach was used for synthesising evidence. In addition, we undertook a meta-analysis of the primary studies to determine risk ratios in the dose-response relationship.
We identified ten SRs that covered a total of 143 original studies. Seven primary studies met the criteria for inclusion, of which four provided longitudinal data. We found high quality of evidence for risk factors such as repetition, force and combined exposures. Moderate quality of evidence was observed for vibration, and low quality of evidence was found for wrist postures. An association between computer use and CTS could not be established. Recent primary studies supported the existence of a significant relationship between CTS and repetition, force and combined exposure. The meta-analysis of current research revealed a dose-response relationship between CTS and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists’ (ACGIH) threshold limit value (TLV) for hand-activity level (HAL). Those between the action limit and TLV and above TLV had RR of 1.5 (95 % CI 1.02–2.31) and RR 2.0 (95 % CI 1.46–2.82), respectively.
Occupational biomechanical factors play a substantial role in the causation of CTS. Data from current primary studies on dose-response suggest that the risk of CTS increases with the ACGIH TLV levels.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12891-015-0685-0) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4553935  PMID: 26323649
3.  The long-term immunogenicity of recombinant hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccine: contribution of universal HBV vaccination in Italy 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2015;15:149.
Universal hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccination of newborn babies was introduced in Italy in 1991 and was extended to 12-years-old children for the first 12 years of application so as to cover in a dozen years the Italian population aged 0-24 years. The aim of this study was to identify factors associated with long-term immunogenicity against HBV 17 years after primary vaccination in students attending medical schools in Naples, Italy.
1,704 students attending the school of medicine, schools of the healthcare professions, or postgraduate medical schools of the Second University of Naples, Italy, from September 2012 to December 2013 were enrolled in this study. Of these, 588 had been vaccinated against HBV in infancy and 1,116 when 12 years old. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was used to identify factors associated with the level of long-term immunogenicity.
All vaccinated subjects were HBsAg/anti-HBc negative: 270 (15.8%) had an anti-HBs titer between 1 and 9 IU/L, 987 (57.9%) between 10 and 400 IU/L, and 447 (26.3%) over 400 IU/L. When compared with the latter two subgroups, those with anti-HBs titers lower than 10 IU/L were younger (24 ± 5.2 years vs. 26 ± 4.9 years, p < 0.000), more frequently students attending a healthcare school (59% vs. 47%, p < 0.001), and more frequently had been vaccinated in infancy (50% vs. 31.5%, p < 0.0001). Multivariate logistic regression identified age at vaccination as the only factor independently associated with an anti-HBs titer <10 IU/L (OR: 2.43; C.I. 95%: 1.57–3.76, p = 0.001).
Universal HBV vaccination in Italy has been more effective in generating a prolonged protective response in subjects vaccinated at adolescence than in infancy. Students with a low anti-HBs titer should be considered for a booster dose because most will be exposed to the risk of acquiring HBV for decades.
PMCID: PMC4376497  PMID: 25884719
HBV infection; HBV vaccination; Anti-HBs titer; Healthcare students
4.  Hospital physicians’ work stressors in different medical specialities: a statistical group comparison 
Some studies on the occupational health of hospital physicians have found that working conditions have different effects on physician’s well-being and health in different medical specialities. There has been no comparative study of the effects of various work stressors in different specialities. This study aims to close this gap.
German hospital physicians were asked about their working conditions and aspects of health. The short version of the Instrument for Stress-Related Job Analysis for Hospital Physicians was used to measure working conditions. Irritation and emotional exhaustion were used to assess health. Physicians were also asked for socio-demographic aspects, including their medical speciality.
Data from 763 hospital physicians were included in the analyses. Significant differences between medical specialities were demonstrated for time pressure, uncertainty, frustration about how work needs to be done and social stressors with patients. Physicians in internal medicine showed consistently high levels of stressors. Time pressure, frustration about how work needs to be done, and emotional dissonance were found to be significantly related to both aspects of health.
The results showed that some medical specialities are more affected by specific stressors. It is therefore discussed how improvements can be implemented. Furthermore, it is illustrated which stressors are especially relevant for health. These relationships to health should be investigated in further research and in longitudinal designs to allow hints of causal relationships.
PMCID: PMC4346110  PMID: 25733980
Work stressors; Physicians’ everyday work; Comparison of medical specialities; Emotional exhaustion; Irritation
5.  Tuberculin skin test and Quantiferon test agreement and influencing factors in tuberculosis screening of healthcare workers: a systematic review and meta-analysis 
A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to evaluate the agreement between Tuberculin Skin Test (TST) and Quantiferon (QFT) in screening for tuberculosis (TB) infection among healthcare workers (HCWs) and to estimate associations between TST and QFT agreement and variables of interest, such as Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccination and incidence of TB.
Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies on HCWs, published in English until October 2013, comparing TST and QFT results, were selected. For each study Cohen’s κ value and a 95% confidence interval were calculated. Summary measures and indexes of heterogeneity between studies were calculated.
29 studies were selected comprising a total of 11,434 HCWs. Cohen’s κ for agreement between TST and QFT for 24 of them was 0.28 (95% CI 0.22 to 0.35), with the best value in high TB incidence countries and the lowest rate of BCG vaccination.
Currently, there is no gold standard for TB screening and the most-used diagnostic tools show low agreement. For evidence-based health surveillance in HCWs, occupational physicians need to consider a number of factors influencing screening results, such as TB incidence, vaccination status, age and working seniority.
PMCID: PMC4323208  PMID: 25670962
Tuberculosis; Tuberculin skin test; Quantiferon TB Gold; Healthcare workers; Health surveillance; Meta-analysis; Cohen’s k
6.  Medical work assessment in German hospitals: a study protocol of a movement sequence analysis (MAGRO-MSA) 
Medical doctors are essential for the German public and occupational health system. They ensure the productivity of German society by enabling people to regain and recover their health. That is why the physicians’ health and hence their productivity require special attention. Musculoskeletal disorders have a high prevalence in this work area. As a consequence, movement sequences, range of motions, and body postures of physicians in the course of the working day are in focus of this research project.
For this investigation 21 male or female junior physicians of various conservative medical disciplines will be covered. Data will be collected over one working day (approx. 9 hours). The CUELA system attached to the test person’s body detects body posture and/or movements. This biomechanical measurement system ensures a locomotor and posture analysis that includes movement sequences, movement intensity, and range of motions to qualify the work tasks. For data analysis intra- and inter-professional comparisons are chosen.
Working movement sequence analysis of physicians by means of the CUELA system is exclusive and novel in its focus. Up to now, knowledge of the working tasks of medical doctors has only been acquired by real-time observation approaches to work activity. In addition to this method of analysis, the CUELA system is able to record quantified biomechanical data about musculoskeletal loads of ordinary working tasks. Workloads and activities of physicians can be improved by ergonomic work design to reduce musculoskeletal disorders by utilizing the data collected. The healthcare system in Germany will thus be optimized by improving medical doctors’ health. Consequently, MAGRO-MSA will also be used for other healthcare professions such as nurses and physicians assistants.
PMCID: PMC4298873  PMID: 25606049
Body posture; CUELA system; Movement sequence; Physicians’ health; Range of motions; Working task
7.  Occupational Screening for Tuberculosis and the Use of a Borderline Zone for Interpretation of the IGRA in German Healthcare Workers 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(12):e115322.
Healthcare workers (HCWs) in low incidence countries with contact to patients with tuberculosis (TB) are considered a high-risk group for latent TB infection (LTBI) and therefore are routinely screened for LTBI. The German Occupational TB Network data is analyzed in order to estimate the prevalence and incidence of LTBI and to evaluate putative risk factors for a positive IGRA and the performance of IGRA in serial testing.
3,823 HCWs were screened with the Quantiferon Gold in Tube (QFT) at least once; a second QFT was performed on 817 HCWs either in the course of contact tracing or serial examination. Risk factors for a positive QFT were assessed by a questionnaire.
We observed a prevalence of LTBI of 8.3%. Putative risk factors for a positive QFT result were age >55 years (OR 6.89), foreign country of birth (OR 2.39), personal history of TB (OR 6.23) and workplace, e.g. internal medicine (OR 1.40), infection ward (OR 1.8) or geriatric care (OR 1.8). Of those repeatedly tested, 88.2% (721/817) tested consistently QFT-negative and 47 were consistently QFT-positive (5.8%). A conversion was observed in 2.8% (n = 21 of 742 with a negative first QFT) and a reversion occurred in 37.3% (n = 28 of 75 with a positive first QFT). Defining a conversion as an increase of the specific interferon concentration from <0.2 to >0.7 IU/ml, the conversion rate decreased to 1.2% (n = 8). Analogous to this, the reversion rate decreased to 18.8% (n = 9).
In countries with a low incidence of TB and high hygiene standards, the LTBI infection risk for HCWs seems low. Introducing a borderline zone from 0.2 to ≤0.7 IU/ml may help to avoid unnecessary X-rays and preventive chemotherapy. No case of active TB was detected. Therefore, it might be reasonable to further restrict TB screening to HCWs who had unprotected contact with infectious patients or materials.
PMCID: PMC4277296  PMID: 25541947
8.  Occupational accident and disease claims, work-related stress and job satisfaction of physiotherapists 
Physiotherapists are exposed to diverse occupational demands. Until now, little has been known about the interaction between occupational stress and the job satisfaction of physiotherapists. This paper aims to examine their work-related stress and job satisfaction. It will analyse accidents at work and occupational diseases of physiotherapists along with work-related physical and psychosocial stress and job satisfaction.
We analysed routine data of the German Institute for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention in the Health and Welfare Services (BGW) on accidents at work and occurring en route to/from work as well as occupational diseases of physiotherapists. Work-related stress and job satisfaction were examined in a cross-sectional survey using a standard questionnaire to be completed by subjects themselves.
Between 2007 and 2011, 1,229 cases of occupational disease were reported to the BGW. The majority of reports involved skin diseases (73%). Stumbles and falls were the most frequent causes of accidents at work (42.9%). Eighty-five physiotherapists all over Germany took part in the survey. They experience high quantitative demands at work. The main physical demands consist of a torso posture between 45° and 90° and high hand activity. Of the 85 subjects, 51% suffer from complaints of the musculoskeletal system in the neck and thoracic spine area and 24% have skin diseases. Most physiotherapists (88%) are satisfied with their work overall. This is aided by a high degree of influence on their work and breaks, by practical application of skills and expert knowledge, high regard for their profession, varied work and a good atmosphere at work. Reservations tend to be about statutory regulations and the social benefits provided by the German healthcare system.
Overall, despite high demands and stress relating to the adequacy of resources, the majority of physiotherapists surveyed seem to be satisfied with their job. The main focus of action to promote the health of physiotherapists should be on preventing skin disease, problems of the musculoskeletal system and accidents caused by stumbles and falls.
PMCID: PMC4262239  PMID: 25505490
Working conditions; Physiotherapist; Job satisfaction; Accidents; Occupational disease
9.  Multiresistant pathogens in geriatric nursing – infection control in residential facilities for geriatric nursing in Germany 
Background: The increase of multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs) causes problems in geriatric nursing homes. Older people are at increased a growing risk of infection due to multimorbidity and frequent stays in hospital. A high proportion of the elderly require residential care in geriatric nursing facilities, where hygiene requirements in nursing homes are similar to those in hospitals. For this reason we examined how well nursing homes are prepared for MDROs and how effectively protect their infection control residents and staff.
Methods: A cross-sectional study was performed on infection control in residential geriatric nursing facilities in Germany 2012. The questionnaire recorded important parameters of hygiene, resident and staff protection and actions in case of existing MDROs.
Results: The response was 54% in Hamburg and 27% in the rest of Germany. Nursing homes were generally well equipped for dealing with infection control: There were standards for MDROs and regular hygiene training for staff. The facilities provided adequate protective clothing, affected residents are usually isolated and hygienic laundry processing conducted. There are deficits in the communication of information on infected residents with hospitals and general practitioners. 54% of nursing homes performed risk assessments for staff infection precaution.
Conclusion: There is a growing interest in MDROs and infection control will be a challenge in for residential geriatric nursing facilities in the future. This issue has also drawn increasing attention. Improvements could be achieved by improving communication between different participants in the health service, together with specific measures for staff protection at work.
PMCID: PMC4184044  PMID: 25285266
infection control; nosocomial infections; nursing homes; elderly people; infection prevention
10.  Evaluation of the Back College for nursing staff 
Work-related musculoskeletal pain- particularly back pain - is an important individual and socioeconomic problem. The Back College for the insurance holders of the Institution for Statutory Accident Insurance and Prevention in the Health and Welfare Services (BGW) is based on a multimodal concept and has been evaluated with respect to pain relief and continuing in the nursing profession.
In a retrospective cohort study, the participants in the Back College from 2009 to 2011 were surveyed in writing. Besides demographic data, the survey covered information on qualification, length of employment, institution, employment status, periods of inability to work, applicability of working techniques and continuation in the profession. Back pain was recorded at three time points - T1 (before the Back College), T2 (directly after the Back College) and T3 (at the time of the survey). Pain changes were submitted to tests for paired samples. Multivariate logistic analysis was applied to determine potential factors influencing unfavourable changes in pain or leaving nursing due to back pain.
The survey covered 1,282 insurance holders, with a response rate of 80%. Statistically significant reductions in pain were found for the whole group and for all subgroups. For persons who predominantly worked in old people’s homes and who did not take part in refresher services, an increased odds ratio was found for unfavourable changes in pain (OR: 1.9 or 1.4, respectively). Persons with a qualification in geriatric nursing or in intensive care/OP/anaesthesia had an increased risk of leaving nursing due to back pain (OR: 2.5 in each case). An increased risk of leaving was also found for persons who did not take part in workplace support (OR: 2.9).
Within the context of the study design, the multimodal concept of the Back College is clearly related to relief of back pain. The Back College appears to be less successful for geriatric nurses and persons with qualifications in intensive care/OP/anaesthesia. Further studies are needed to ascertain why some participants experience less relief in stress from the working techniques they have learnt.
PMCID: PMC4265890  PMID: 25512761
Back school; Nursing; Evaluation
11.  Predictive values and other quality criteria of the German version of the Nurse-Work Instability Scale (Nurse-WIS) – follow-up survey findings of a prospective study of a cohort of geriatric care workers 
Until now there has been a lack of effective screening instruments for health care workers at risk. To counteract the forecast shortage for health care workers, the offer of early interventions to maintain their work ability will become a central concern. The Nurse-Work Instability Scale (Nurse-WIS) seems to be suitable as a screening instrument and therefore a prospective study of a cohort of nursing staff from nursing homes was undertaken to validate the Nurse-Work Instability Scale (Nurse-WIS).
The follow-up data was used to test the sensitivity, specificity and the predictive values of the Nurse-WIS. The participants answered a questionnaire in the baseline investigation (T1) and in a follow-up 12 month after baseline. The hypothesis was that geriatric care workers with an increased risk according to the Nurse-WIS in T1 would be more likely to have taken long-term sick leave or drawn a pension for reduced work capacity in T2.
396 persons took part in T1 (21.3% response), 225 in T2 (42.3% loss-to-follow-up). In T1, 28.4% indicated an increased risk according to the Nurse-WIS. In T2, 10.2% had taken long-term sick leave or had drawn a pension for reduced work capacity. The sensitivity is 73.9% (95%-CI 55.7%–92.3%), the specificity is 76.7% (95%-CI 71.2%–82.8%). The ROC AUC indicated a moderate precision for the scale, at 0.74 (95%-CI 0.64–0.84).
The PPV of the Nurse-WIS is 26.6%, and the NPV is 96.3%. For those with an increased risk according to the Nurse-WIS, the probability in T2 of long-term sick leave or a pension for reduced work capacity is around eight times higher (OR 8.3, 95%-CI 2.90–23.07). Persons who had indicated a long-term sick leave or made an application for a pension for reduced work capacity in T1 had a 17 times higher risk (OR 17.4, 95%-CI 3.34–90.55).
The German version of the Nurse-WIS appears to be a valid instrument with satisfactory predictive capabilities for recording an impending long-term sick leave. Whether the Nurse-WIS can be used as a screening tool which helps to design risk adjusted prevention programs for the afflicted nurse should be studied.
PMCID: PMC4265889  PMID: 25516765
Nurse-work instability scale; Nurses; Musculoskeletal disorders; Long-term sick leave
12.  Tuberculosis screening at the Sainte-Anne Hospital in Paris – results of first and second IGRA 
Healthcare workers (HCWs) are exposed to Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB) and therefore are screened for tuberculosis (TB). Results of TB screenings with the Interferon-γ Release Assay (IGRA) in a French psychiatric hospital without a TB ward are described.
At the Sainte-Anne Hospital, a referral centre for psychiatric patients throughout the municipal region of Paris, IGRA screening is performed during pre-employment and general health examination or after potential contact to MTB. The QuantiFERON Gold in tube (QFT) is used and data on TB history are assessed in a standardized manner.
Between August 2008 und August 2013 in total 1.192 HCWs were tested and the QFT was positive in 265 (22.2%). Probability of a positive QFT increased with age. A second QFT was performed in 144 HCWs with a positive QFT and 53 (36.8%) HCWs had a reversion. With a positive QFT close to the cut-off (e.g. 0.35-0.7 IU/ml) the odds ratio for a reversion was 4.6 compared to an INF-γ concentration of ≥3.0 IU/ml. Probability of reversion was not influenced by preventive chemotherapy, which was completed by 28 (19.4%) HCWs with a positive QFT. No active TB was detected.
Prevalence of positive IGRA is high in French HCWs as is the number of reversions in IGRA. Reversion rate is particularly high around the cut-off of the IGRA. A borderline zone will therefore reduce the influence of test variability.
PMCID: PMC4094665  PMID: 25018775
Tuberculosis; Healthcare workers; Interferon-gamma release assay; Reversion
13.  MRSA carriage among healthcare workers in non-outbreak settings in Europe and the United States: a systematic review 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2014;14:363.
A recent review estimated prevalence of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in healthcare workers (HCWs) to be 4.6%. However, MRSA carriage in HCWs in non-outbreak settings is thought to be higher than in an outbreak situation, due to increased hygiene awareness in outbreaks, but valid data are missing. The goals of this paper are to summarise the prevalence of MRSA carriage amongst HCWs in non-outbreak situations and to identify occupational groups in healthcare services associated with a higher risk of MRSA colonisation.
A systematic search for literature was conducted in the MEDLINE and EMBASE databases. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed using seven criteria. Pooled prevalence rates were calculated. Pooled effect estimates were identified in a meta-analysis.
31 studies were included in this review. The pooled MRSA colonisation rate was 1.8% (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.34%-2.50%). The rate increased to 4.4% (95% CI, 3.98%-4.88%) when one study from the Netherlands was excluded. The pooled MRSA rate was highest in nursing staff (6.9%). Nursing staff had an odds ratio of 1.72 (95% CI, 1.07-2.77) when compared with medical staff and an odds ratio of 2.58 (95%, 1.83-3.66) when compared with other healthcare staff. Seven studies were assessed as being of high quality. The pooled MRSA prevalence in high quality studies was 1.1% or 5.4% if the one large study from the Netherlands is not considered. The pooled prevalence in studies of moderate quality was 4.0%.
MRSA prevalence among HCWs in non-outbreak settings was no higher than carriage rates estimated for outbreaks. Our estimate is in the lower half of the range of the published MRSA rates in the endemic setting. Our findings demonstrate that nursing staff have an increased risk for MRSA colonisation. In order to confirm this finding, more studies are needed, including healthcare professionals with varying degrees of exposure to MRSA. In order to reduce misclassification bias, standardisation of HCWs screening is warranted.
PMCID: PMC4094410  PMID: 24996225
MRSA; Colonisation; Healthcare worker
14.  Tuberculosis in healthcare workers – a narrative review from a German perspective 
Despite the decline of tuberculosis in the population at large, healthcare workers (HCW) are still at risk of infection.
In a narrative review the TB risk in HCW and preventive measures are described, with the focus on epidemiology and Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) regulations in Germany.
There is an increased risk of infection not only in pneumology and laboratories with regular contact with tuberculosis patients or infectious materials. Epidemiological studies have also verified an increased risk of infection from activities that involve close contact with patients’ breath (e.g. bronchoscopy, intubation) or close contact with patients in need of care in geriatric medicine or geriatric nursing. In occupational disease claim proceedings on account of tuberculosis, the burden of proof can be eased for insured persons who work in these or other comparable fields. Forgoing evidence of an index person as a source of infection has led to a doubling of the rate of cases of tuberculosis recognised as an occupational disease and has halved the duration of occupational disease claim proceedings in Germany. For several years now, it has been possible to use the new interferon-y release assays (IGRAs) to diagnose a latent tuberculosis infection (LTBI) with significantly greater validity than with the traditional tuberculin skin test (TST). However, variability of the IGRAs around the cut-off poses problems especially in serial testing of HCWs. At around 10%, LTBI prevalence in German healthcare workers is lower than had been assumed. It can make sense to treat a recent LTBI in a young healthcare worker so as to prevent progression into active tuberculosis. If the LTBI is occupational in origin, the provider of statutory accident insurance can cover the costs of preventive treatment. However, little is known about disease progression in HCWs with positive IGRA sofar.
TB screening in HCWs will remain an important issue in the near future even in low incidence, high income countries, as active TB in HCWs is often due to workplace exposure. The IGRAs facilitate these screenings. However, variability of IGRA results in serial testing of HCWs need further investigations.
PMCID: PMC3984703  PMID: 24625063
Tuberculosis; Provision; Occupational disease; Assessment; Healthcare; Prevention
15.  Self-Reported Musculoskeletal Disorders of the Distal Upper Extremities and the Neck in German Veterinarians: A Cross-Sectional Study 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e89362.
Veterinary work is a physically demanding profession and entails the risk of injuries and diseases of the musculoskeletal system, particularly in the upper body. The prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD), the consequences and work-related accidents in German veterinarians were investigated. Work-related and individual factors associated with MSD of upper extremities and the neck were analyzed.
In 2011, a self-reporting Standardized Nordic Questionnaire was mailed to registered veterinarians in seven federal medical associations in Germany. A total of 3174 (38.4%) veterinarians responded. Logistic regression analysis was used to determine the association between risk factors and MSD-related impairment of daily activities.
MSD in the neck (66.6%) and shoulder (60.5%) were more prevalent than in the hand (34.5%) or elbow (24.5%). Normal activities were affected in 28.7% (neck), 29.5% (shoulder), 19.4% (hand) and 14% (elbow) of the respondents. MSD in the upper body occurred significantly more often in large animal practitioners. Accidents that resulted in MSD were most frequently reported in the hand/wrist (14.3%) or in the shoulder (10.8%). The majority of all accidents in the distal upper extremities were caused by animals than by other factors (19% vs. 9.2%). For each area of the body, a specific set of individual and work-related factors contributed significantly to severe MSD: Older age, gender, previous injuries, BMI, practice type, veterinary procedures such as dentistry, rectal procedures and obstetric procedures as well as high demands and personal burnout.
From the perspective of occupational health and safety, it seems to be necessary to improve accident prevention and to optimize the ergonomics of specific tasks. Our data suggest the need for target group-specific preventive measures that also focus on the psychological factors at work.
PMCID: PMC3929685  PMID: 24586718
16.  Psychological stress and strain on employees in dialysis facilities: a cross-sectional study with the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire 
Work in dialysis facilities involves long term contact with chronically ill patients. International comparisons make it clear that dialysis work is being concentrated, staff is being reduced and more patients are being treated. It is more than 20 years since the last German publication on job strains and job satisfaction experienced by dialysis staff was published. The present study examines the stress and strain currently experienced by the staff of German dialysis facilities.
The staff of 20 dialysis facilities were surveyed with the Copenhagen Psychosocial Questionnaire (COPSOQ). The questionnaire was extended by adding dialysis-specific questions. The data from the dialysis facilities were assessed by comparison with other professions in medical care - nurses and geriatric nurses - using data recorded in the German COPSOQ database.
A total of 367 employees took part in the study, corresponding to a response rate of 55%. For almost all psychosocial aspects, the dialysis staff regarded the stress and strain as being more critical than did the geriatric nurses. There were some positive differences in comparison to hospital nursing, including less conflict between work and private life. However, there were also negative differences, such as fewer possibilities of influencing the work.
The results of the study show that dialysis work exhibits both positive and negative aspects in comparison with other healthcare professions. The results in the different facilities were highly variable, indicating that the deficits found in the individual scales are not inevitable consequences of working in dialysis in general, but are influenced and might be favourably altered by the individual facilities.
PMCID: PMC3918173  PMID: 24499468
Belastung; Beanspruchung; Dialyse-Beschäftigte; Gesundheitsberufe; psychosoziale Arbeitsbedingungen; COPSOQ; Stress; Strain; Dialysis staff; Health occupations; Psychosocial factors; COPSOQ
17.  Musculoskeletal pain and effort-reward imbalance- a systematic review 
BMC Public Health  2014;14:37.
Musculoskeletal pain may be triggered by physical strains and psychosocial risk factors. The effort-reward imbalance model (ERI model) is a stress model which measures psychosocial factors in the working world. The question is whether workers with an effort-reward imbalance report musculoskeletal pain more frequently than those with no effort-reward imbalance. A systematic review using a best evidence synthesis approach was conducted to answer this question.
A literature search was conducted for the period from 1996 to 2012, using three databases (Pubmed, Embase and PsycINFO). The research criteria related to psychosocial, work-related stress as per the ERI model and to musculoskeletal pain. A quality score was developed using various quality criteria to assess the standard of the studies. The level of evidence was graded as in (Am J Ind Med 39:180–193, 2001).
After applying the inclusion criteria, a total of 19 studies were included in the review: 15 cross-sectional studies, three prospective studies and one case–control study. 74% of all studies exhibited good methodological quality, 53% collected data using the original ERI questionnaire, and in 42% of the studies, there was adequate control for physical working conditions. Furthermore, different cut-off points were used to classify exposed and non-exposed individuals. On the basis of 13 studies with a positive, statistically significant association, a moderate level of evidence was inferred for the association between effort-reward imbalance and musculoskeletal pain. The evidence for a role of over-commitment and for its interaction with effort-reward imbalance was rated as inconclusive - on the basis of eight and five studies, respectively.
On the basis of the available evidence, no reliable conclusion may be drawn about any association between the psychosocial factors ascertained using the ERI model and musculoskeletal pain. Before a reliable statement can be made on the association between ERI and musculoskeletal pain, additional longitudinal studies must be performed - with a standardised method for recording and classifying exposure, as well as control of physical confounders. Appropriate preventive measures can then be specified.
PMCID: PMC3898401  PMID: 24428955
Effort-reward imbalance; Musculoskeletal pain; Psychosocial work stress; Review
18.  The Effect of Working Position on Trunk Posture and Exertion for Routine Nursing Tasks: An Experimental Study 
Annals of Occupational Hygiene  2013;58(3):317-325.
To examine the influence of the two following factors on the proportion of time that nurses spend in a forward-bending trunk posture: (i) the bed height during basic care activities at the bedside and (ii) the work method during basic care activities in the bathroom. A further aim was to examine the connection between the proportion of time spent in a forward-bending posture and the perceived exertion.
Twelve nurses in a geriatric nursing home each performed a standardized care routine at the bedside and in the bathroom. The CUELA (German abbreviation for ‘computer-assisted recording and long-term analysis of musculoskeletal loads’) measuring system was used to record all trunk inclinations. Each participant conducted three tests with the bed at different heights (knee height, thigh height, and hip height) and in the bathroom, three tests were performed with different work methods (standing, kneeling, and sitting). After each test, participants rated their perceived exertion on the 15-point Borg scale (6 = no exertion at all and 20 = exhaustion).
If the bed was raised from knee to thigh level, the proportion of time spent in an upright position increased by 8.2% points. However, the effect was not significant (P = 0.193). Only when the bed was raised to hip height, there was a significant increase of 19.8% points (reference: thigh level; P = 0.003) and 28.0% points (reference: knee height; P < 0.001). Bathroom tests: compared with the standing work method, the kneeling and sitting work methods led to a significant increase in the proportion of time spent in an upright posture, by 19.4% points (P = 0.003) and 25.7% points (P < 0.001), respectively. The greater the proportion of time spent in an upright position, the lower the Borg rating (P < 0.001) awarded.
The higher the proportion of time that nursing personnel work in an upright position, the less strenuous they perceive the work to be. Raising the bed to hip height and using a stool in the bathroom significantly increase the proportion of time that nursing personnel work in an upright position. Nursing staff can spend a considerably greater proportion of their time in an ergonomic posture if stools and height-adjustable beds are provided in healthcare institutions.
PMCID: PMC3954518  PMID: 24371043
bed height; bending; musculoskeletal disorders; nursing; perceived exertion; trunk posture
19.  Work-related complaints and diseases of physical therapists – protocol for the establishment of a “Physical Therapist Cohort” (PTC) in Germany 
Only few studies deal with the workload of physical therapists and the health consequences, although this occupational group is quite important for the health care system in many industrialized countries (e.g. ca. 136 000 people are currently employed as physical therapists in Germany). Therefore, the current state of knowledge of work-related diseases and disorders of physical therapists is insufficient. The aim of the "Physical Therapist Cohort" (PTC) study is to analyze the association between work-related exposures and diseases among physical therapists in Germany. This article describes the protocol of the baseline assessment of the PTC study.
A cross-sectional study will be conducted as baseline assessment and will include a representative random sample of approximately 300 physical therapists employed in Germany (exposure group), and a population-based comparison group (n = 300). The comparison group will comprise a sample of working aged (18–65 years) inhabitants of a German city. Variables of interest will be assessed using a questionnaire manual including questions regarding musculoskeletal, dermal, and infectious diseases and disorders as well as psychosocial exposures, diseases and disorders. In addition to subjective measures, a clinical examination will be used to objectify the questionnaire-based results (n = 50).
The study, which includes extensive data collection, provides a unique opportunity to study the prospective association of work-related exposures and associated complaints of physical therapists. Baseline results will give first clues with regard to whether and how prevalent main exposures of physiotherapeutic work and typical work areas of physical therapists are associated with the development of work-related diseases. Thereby, this baseline assessment provides the basis for further investigations to examine causal relationships in accordance with a longitudinal design.
PMCID: PMC3878737  PMID: 24330548
Study protocol; Cohort study; Physical therapist; Occupational exposure; Occupational health; Occupational disease
20.  Validation of the German version of the Nurse-Work Instability Scale: baseline survey findings of a prospective study of a cohort of geriatric care workers 
A prospective study of a cohort of nursing staff from nursing homes was undertaken to validate the Nurse-Work Instability Scale (Nurse-WIS). Baseline investigation data was used to test reliability, construct validity and criterion validity.
A survey of nursing staff from nursing homes was conducted using a questionnaire containing the Nurse-WIS along with other survey instruments (including SF-12, WAI, SPE). The self-reported number of days’ sick leave taken and if a pension for reduced work capacity was drawn were recorded. The reliability of the scale was checked by item difficulty (P), item discrimination (rjt) and by internal consistency according to Cronbach’s coefficient. The hypotheses for checking construct validity were tested on the basis of correlations. Pearson’s chi-square was used to test concurrent criterion validity; discriminant validity was tested by means of binary logistic regression.
396 persons answered the questionnaire (21.3% response rate). More than 80% were female and mostly work full-time in a rotating shift pattern. Following the test for item discrimination, two items were removed from the Nurse-WIS test. According to Cronbach’s (0.927) the scale provides a high degree of measuring accuracy. All hypotheses and assumptions used to test validity were confirmed: As the Nurse-WIS risk increases, health-related quality of life, work ability and job satisfaction decline. Depressive symptoms and a poor subjective prognosis of earning capacity are also more frequent. Musculoskeletal disorders and impairments of psychological well-being are more frequent. Age also influences the Nurse-WIS result. While 12.0% of those below the age of 35 had an increased risk, the figure for those aged over 55 was 50%.
This study is the first validation study of the Nurse-WIS to date. The Nurse-WIS shows good reliability, good validity and a good level of measuring accuracy. It appears to be suitable for recording prevention and rehabilitation needs among health care workers. If, in the follow-up, the Nurse-WIS likewise proves to be a reliable screening instrument with good predictive validity, it could ensure that suitable action is taken at an early stage, thereby helping to counteract early retirement and the anticipated shortage of health care workers.
PMCID: PMC3892029  PMID: 24330532
Nurse-work instability scale; Nurses; Musculoskeletal disorders
21.  Frequent Detection of Latent Tuberculosis Infection among Aged Underground Hard Coal Miners in the Absence of Recent Tuberculosis Exposure 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(12):e82005.
Miners are at particular risk for tuberculosis (TB) infection due to exposure to silica dust and silicosis. The objectives of the present observational cohort study were to determine the prevalence of latent TB infection (LTBI) among aged German underground hard coal miners with silicosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) using two commercial interferon-gamma release assays (IGRAs) and to compare their performance with respect to predictors of test positivity.
Between October 2008 and June 2010, miners were consecutively recruited when routinely attending pneumoconiosis clinics for an expert opinion. Both IGRAs, the QuantiFERON®-TB Gold In-Tube (QFT) and the T-SPOT®.TB (T-SPOT), were performed at baseline. A standardized clinical interview was conducted at baseline and at follow-up. The cohort was prospectively followed regarding the development of active TB for at least two years after inclusion of the last study subject. Independent predictors of IGRA positivity were calculated using logistic regression.
Among 118 subjects (mean age 75 years), none reported recent exposure to TB. Overall, the QFT and the T-SPOT yielded similarly high rates of positive results (QFT: 46.6%; 95% confidence interval 37.6–55.6%; T-SPOT: 61.0%; 95% confidence interval 52.2–69.8%). Positive results were independently predicted by age ≥80 years and foreign country of birth for both IGRAs. In addition, radiological evidence of prior healed TB increased the chance of a positive QFT result fivefold. While 28 subjects were lost to follow-up, no cases of active TB occurred among 90 subjects during an average follow-up of >2 years.
Considering the high prevalence of LTBI, the absence of recent TB exposure, and the currently low TB incidence in Germany, our study provides evidence for the persistence of specific interferon-gamma responses even decades after putative exposure. However, the clinical value of current IGRAs among our study population, although probably limited, remains uncertain.
PMCID: PMC3846790  PMID: 24312620
22.  Serial IGRA testing of trainees in the healthcare sector in a country with low incidence for tuberculosis – a prospective cohort study 
Background: Healthcare workers (HCW) are a risk group for tuberculosis (TB). That is why interferon-gamma release assay (IGRA) serial testing is performed on HCWs repeatedly exposed to infectious patients or materials. However, the variability of IGRA in serial testing is not yet well understood. We therefore analysed the prevalence of positive IGRA results as well as conversion and reversion rates in the serial testing of healthcare trainees in a low-incidence country.
Methods: In a prospective cohort study, all trainees (n=194) who began training as a nurse or healthcare worker at the Vivantes Healthcare Training Institute in Berlin on 1 October 2008 or 1 April 2009 were IGRA-tested at three different times during the three years of training. Socio-demographic data and possible risk factors (e.g., TB contacts, time spent abroad, area of work) were recorded by means of a standardised questionnaire. The QuantiFERON Gold In-Tube (QFT) was used as an IGRA.
Results: At the beginning of the training the cohort comprised 194 trainees. 70% were female. Their average age was 23. The prevalence of positive QFT was 2.1% (4/194). In the first follow-up test, 2 out of 154 (1.3%) tested IGRA-positive, 151 (98%) had constantly negative results. One IGRA was constantly positive (0.6%) and there was one conversion and one reversion (0.6% respectively). In the second follow-up (n=142) there was again one conversion (0.7%), one reversion and the one constantly positive test result in all three QFT. This trainee had active TB in 2002. All other test results were constantly negative (n=139; 98%). No case of active tuberculosis was diagnosed over the three-year observation period. Contact with TB patients was reported by 42 (29.6%) trainees during the follow-up. The two trainees with a conversion in QFT had no known contact with TB patients. Discordant results in the three consecutive QFT were observed in three trainees (2.1%). Using a borderline zone from 0.2–0.7 IU/mL reduced the number of trainees with discordant results from three to one – a reversion.
Conclusion: The prevalence rate of latent TB infection is low in healthcare trainees without known risk factors for TB infection in their history. The infection risk seems to be low in this population even though contacts with TB patients during the training were reported. Introducing a borderline zone for the interpretation of reversions and conversions in this cohort appears to be safe and reduces the number of discordant results and helps to avoid unnecessary chest X-rays and preventive treatment.
PMCID: PMC3857277  PMID: 24327943
tuberculosis; serial testing; interferon-gamma release assay; healthcare workers; students; occupational disease; latent tuberculosis infection
23.  Involvement of occupational physicians in the management of MRSA-colonised healthcare workers in Germany – a survey 
Colonisation of healthcare workers (HCWs) with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus strains (MRSA) is a challenge for any healthcare facility. Persistent carriage of MRSA among HCWs causes special problems, particularly in occupational-medical care. German occupational physicians responsible for healthcare facilities were therefore asked about their experience in managing MRSA-colonised HCWs.
In May 2012, 549 occupational physicians were asked in writing about in-house management of MRSA-colonised HCWs. The semi-standardised survey form contained questions about collaboration between the infection control team and the occupational physician, the involvement of the occupational physician in in-house management of MRSA carriers and the number of persistently colonised HCWs in 2011. The answers were intended to apply to the largest facility cared for by the occupational physician.
207 occupational physicians took part in the survey (response rate 38%). In 2011, 73 (35%) occupational physicians were responsible for the occupational-medical management of an average of four MRSA-colonised HCWs. Eleven doctors (5.3% of 207) managed a total of 17 persistently colonised HCWs. One of these 17 employees was dismissed. In the case of MRSA carriage among HCWs, most occupational physicians cooperated with the infection control team (77%) and 39% of occupational physicians were responsible for the occupational-medical management of the affected carrier. 65% of facilities had specified policies for the management of MRSA-colonised HCWs. After the first MRSA-positive screening result, 79% of facilities attempt to decolonise the affected employee. In 6% of facilities, the colonised HCWs were excluded from work while receiving decolonisation treatment. In 54% of facilities, infection control policies demand the removal of MRSA carriers from patient care.
Not all facilities have policies for the management of MRSA-colonised HCWs and there are major differences in occupational consequences for the affected HCWs. In order to protect both the employees and the patients, standards for the in-house management of MRSA colonisation in HCWs should be developed.
PMCID: PMC3668962  PMID: 23710905
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus; Colonisation; Persistent carriage; Healthcare worker; Occupational disease
24.  The effect of introducing IGRA to screen French healthcare workers for tuberculosis and potential conclusions for the work organisation 
In France, pre-employment screening for tuberculosis (TB) is performed for healthcare workers (HCW). Screening is repeated when exposure to TB patients or infectious material occurs. The results of these TB screenings were analysed in a retrospective analysis.
Tuberculin skin tests (TST) and interferon-gamma release assays (QuantiFERON® Gold In-Tube – QFT) were used to perform the TB screenings. The screening results of 637 HCWs on whom QFT was performed were taken from the records of the University Hospital of Nantes.
In three (0.5%) HCW, the QFT was indeterminate. In 22.2%, the QFT was positive. A second QFT was performed in 118 HCWs. The reversion rate was 42% (5 out of 17). The conversion rate was 6% (6 out of 98). A TST was performed on 466 (73.5%) of the HCWs. Results for TST > 10 mm were 77.4%. In those with a TST < 10 mm, QFT was positive in 14% and in those with a TST ≥ 10 mm, QFT was positive in 26.7%. Depending on the definition for conversion in the QFT, the annual attack rate was 4.1% or 7.3%. X-ray and pneumology consultation was based on positive QFT rather than TST alone (52 out of 56). No active TB was detected.
The TST overestimated the prevalence of LTBI in this cohort. The decision about X-ray and consultation regarding preventive treatment should be based on the QFT rather than the TST results. The high reversion rate should be taken into consideration when consulting with HCWs regarding preventive treatment. The high conversion rate seems to indicate that preventive measures such as wearing masks should be improved.
PMCID: PMC3651707  PMID: 23647777
Tuberculosis; Healthcare workers; Interferon-gamma release assay
25.  Instrument for stress-related job analysis for hospital physicians: validation of a short version 
Working conditions in hospitals may endanger physicians' health and impair patient care. For this reason, an instrument was developed in the form of a questionnaire, in order to record problems in physicians' working conditions and to suggest possible ways of improving them.
A survey was performed with 571 hospital physicians. The questionnaire used is a shortened version of the extensive Instrument for Stress-related Job Analysis for Hospital Physicians. This short version contains 14 scales with 30 items on stressors and resources. For validation purposes, several scales were also used for well-being.
The factor structure of the short version of the instrument for hospital physicians was confirmed by confirmatory factor analysis. Cronbach's α and the analyses of interrater agreement with the parameter rwg(J) largely gave moderate to good results. The intercorrelations between the scales are mostly slight to moderate, indicating that the scales are largely independent. The bivariate correlations with different well-being variables are highly significant for most questionnaire scales. In multiple hierarchical regression analyses the scales explained a considerable amount of variance for different well-being variables. Taken together, this emphasizes the relevance of the scales for the stress process.
The short version of the Instrument for Stress-related Job Analysis for Hospital Physicians is a reliable and valid instrument, which can be used practically and economically for normal hospital work.
PMCID: PMC3736611  PMID: 23594798
Workplace health promotion; Hospital physicians; Stress; Job analysis

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