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1.  Improving Work Functioning and Mental Health of Health Care Employees Using an E-Mental Health Approach to Workers' Health Surveillance: Pretest–Posttest Study 
Safety and Health at Work  2014;5(4):216-221.
Mental health complaints are quite common in health care employees and can have adverse effects on work functioning. The aim of this study was to evaluate an e-mental health (EMH) approach to workers' health surveillance (WHS) for nurses and allied health professionals. Using the waiting-list group of a previous randomized controlled trial with high dropout and low compliance to the intervention, we studied the pre- and posteffects of the EMH approach in a larger group of participants.
We applied a pretest–posttest study design. The WHS consisted of online screening on impaired work functioning and mental health followed by online automatically generated personalized feedback, online tailored advice, and access to self-help EMH interventions. The effects on work functioning, stress, and work-related fatigue after 3 months were analyzed using paired t tests and effect sizes.
One hundred and twenty-eight nurses and allied health professionals participated at pretest as well as posttest. Significant improvements were found on work functioning (p = 0.01) and work-related fatigue (p < 0.01). Work functioning had relevantly improved in 30% of participants. A small meaningful effect on stress was found (Cohen d = .23) in the participants who had logged onto an EMH intervention (20%, n = 26).
The EMH approach to WHS improves the work functioning and mental health of nurses and allied health professionals. However, because we found small effects and participation in the offered EMH interventions was low, there is ample room for improvement.
PMCID: PMC4266797  PMID: 25516815
health personnel; internet self-help; mental health; occupational health; work functioning
2.  Developing a Best-Evidence Pre-employment Medical Examination: An Example from the Construction Industry 
Safety and Health at Work  2014;5(3):165-167.
The Dutch construction industry has introduced a compulsory preemployment medical examination (PE-ME). Best-evidence contents related to specific job demands are, however, lacking and need to be gathered. After the identification of job demands and health problems in the construction industry (systematic literature search and expert meeting), specific job demands and related requirements were defined and instruments proposed. Finally, a work ability assessment was linked to the instruments' outcomes, resulting in the modular character of the developed PE-ME. Twenty-two specific job demands for all Dutch construction jobs were identified, including kneeling/squatting, working under time pressure, and exposure to hazardous substances. The next step was proposing self-report questions, screening questionnaires, clinical tests, and/or performance-based tests, leading to a work ability judgment. “Lifting/carrying” is described as an example. The new modular PE-ME enables a job-specific assessment of work ability to be made for more than 100 jobs in the Dutch construction industry.
PMCID: PMC4213926  PMID: 25379333
high-demand jobs; preemployment medical examination; specific job demands; specific job requirements
3.  Guidance strategies for a participatory ergonomic intervention to increase the use of ergonomic measures of workers in construction companies: a study design of a randomised trial 
More than seven out of 10 Dutch construction workers describe their work as physically demanding. Ergonomic measures can be used to reduce these physically demanding work tasks. To increase the use of ergonomic measures, employers and workers have to get used to other working methods and to maintaining them. To facilitate this behavioural change, participatory ergonomics (PE) interventions could be useful. For this study a protocol of a PE intervention is adapted in such a way that the intervention can be performed by an ergonomics consultant through face-to-face contacts or email contacts. The objective of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of the face-to-face guidance strategy and the e-guidance strategy on the primary outcome measure: use of ergonomic measures by individual construction workers, and on the secondary outcome measures: the work ability, physical functioning and limitations due to physical problems of individual workers.
The present study is a randomised intervention trial of six months in 12 companies to establish the effects of a PE intervention guided by four face-to-face contacts (N = 6) or guided by 13 email contacts (N = 6) on the primary and secondary outcome measures at baseline and after six months. Construction companies are randomly assigned to one of the guidance strategies with the help of a computer generated randomisation table. In addition, a process evaluation for both strategies will be performed to determine reach, dose delivered, dose received, precision, competence, satisfaction and behavioural change to find possible barriers and facilitators for both strategies. A cost-benefit analysis will be performed to establish the financial consequences of both strategies. The present study is in accordance with the CONSORT statement.
The outcome of this study will help to 1) evaluate the effect of both guidance strategies, and 2) find barriers to and facilitators of both guidance strategies. When these strategies are effective, implementation within occupational health services can take place to guide construction companies (and others) with the implementation of ergonomic measures.
Trail registration
Trailnumber: ISRCTN73075751, Date of registration: 30 July 2013.
PMCID: PMC3997435  PMID: 24742300
Participatory ergonomics; Ergonomic measures; Physical work demands; Construction industry
4.  Effect of an E-mental Health Approach to Workers' Health Surveillance versus Control Group on Work Functioning of Hospital Employees: A Cluster-RCT 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(9):e72546.
To evaluate an e-mental health (EMH) approach to workers' health surveillance (WHS) targeting work functioning (WF) and mental health (MH) of healthcare professionals in a randomised controlled trial.
Nurses and allied health professionals (N = 1140) were cluster-randomised at ward level to the intervention (IG) or control group (CG). The intervention consisted of two parts: (a) online screening and personalised feedback on impaired WF and MH, followed by (b) a tailored offer of self-help EMH interventions. CG received none of these parts. Primary outcome was impaired WF (Nurses Work Functioning Questionnaire), assessed at baseline and after three and six months. Analyses were performed in the positively screened subgroup (i) and in all participants (ii).
Participation rate at baseline was 32% (NIG = 178; NCG = 188). Eighty-two percent screened positive for at least mild impairments in WF and/or MH (NIG = 139; NCG = 161). All IG-participants (N = 178) received part (a) of the intervention, nine participants (all positively screened, 6%) followed an EMH intervention to at least some extent. Regarding the subgroup of positively screened participants (i), both IG and CG improved over time regarding WF (non-significant between-group difference). After six months, 36% of positively screened IG-participants (18/50) had a relevant WF improvement compared to baseline, versus 28% (32/115) of positively screened CG-participants (non-significant difference). In the complete sample (ii), IG and CG improved over time but IG further improved between three and six months while CG did not (significant interaction effect).
In our study with a full compliance rate of 6% and substantial drop-out leading to a small and underpowered sample, we could not demonstrate that an EMH-approach to WHS is more effective to improve WF and MH than a control group. The effect found in the complete sample of participants is not easily interpreted. Reported results may be useful for future meta-analytic work.
Trial Registration
Dutch Trial Register NTR2786
PMCID: PMC3772000  PMID: 24069148
5.  Improving occupational health care for construction workers: a process evaluation 
BMC Public Health  2013;13:218.
To evaluate the process of a job-specific workers’ health surveillance (WHS) in improving occupational health care for construction workers.
From January to July 2012 were 899 bricklayers and supervisors invited for the job-specific WHS at three locations of one occupational health service throughout the Netherlands. The intervention aimed at detecting signs of work-related health problems, reduced work capacity and/or reduced work functioning. Measurements were obtained using a recruitment record and questionnaires at baseline and follow-up. The process evaluation included the following: reach (attendance rate), intervention dose delivered (provision of written recommendations and follow-up appointments), intervention dose received (intention to follow-up on advice directly after WHS and remembrance of advice three months later), and fidelity (protocol adherence). The workers scored their increase in knowledge from 0–10 with regard to health status and work ability, their satisfaction with the intervention and the perceived (future) effect of such an intervention. Program implementation was defined as the mean score of reach, fidelity, and intervention dose delivered and received.
Reach was 9% (77 workers participated), fidelity was 67%, the intervention dose delivered was 92 and 63%, and the intervention dose received was 68 and 49%. The total programme implementation was 58%. The increases in knowledge regarding the health status and work ability of the workers after the WHS were graded as 7.0 and 5.9, respectively. The satisfaction of the workers with the entire intervention was graded as 7.5. The perceived (future) effects on health status were graded as 6.3, and the effects on work ability were graded with a 5.2. The economic recession affected the workers as well as the occupational health service that enacted the implementation.
Programme implementation was acceptable. Low reach, limited protocol adherence and modest engagement of the workers with respect to the intervention were the most prominent aspects that influenced the intervention process. The increase in the workers’ knowledge about their health status and work ability was substantial, and the workers’ satisfaction with the intervention was good. The perceived effect of the advised preventive actions on health status was sufficient.
Trial registration
Netherlands Trial Register: http://NTR3012
PMCID: PMC3599882  PMID: 23497119
6.  Musculoskeletal disorders among construction workers: a one-year follow-up study 
Work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are an important cause of functional impairments and disability among construction workers. An improved understanding of MSDs in different construction occupations is likely to be of value for selecting preventive measures. This study aimed to survey the prevalence of symptoms of MSDs, the work-relatedness of the symptoms and the problems experienced during work among two construction occupations: bricklayers and supervisors.
We randomly selected 750 bricklayers and 750 supervisors resident in the Netherlands in December 2009. This sample was surveyed by means of a baseline questionnaire and a follow-up questionnaire one year later. The participants were asked about complaints of the musculoskeletal system during the last six months, the perceived work-relatedness of the symptoms, the problems that occurred during work and the occupational tasks that were perceived as causes or aggravating factors of the MSD.
Baseline response rate was 37%, follow-up response was 80%. The prevalence of MSDs among 267 bricklayers and 232 supervisors was 67% and 57%, respectively. Complaints of the back, knee and shoulder/upper arm were the most prevalent among both occupations. Irrespective of the body region, most of the bricklayers and supervisors reported that their complaints were work-related. Complaints of the back and elbow were the most often reported among the bricklayers during work, whereas lower arm/wrist and upper leg complaints were the most often reported among the supervisors. In both occupations, a majority of the participants perceived several occupational physical tasks and activities as causes or aggravating factors for their MSD. Recurrent complaints at follow-up were reported by both bricklayers (47% of the complaints) and supervisors (31% of the complaints). Participants in both occupations report that mainly back and knee complaints result in additional problems during work, at the time of follow-up.
A substantial number of the bricklayers and the supervisors report musculoskeletal disorders, mainly back, knee and shoulder/upper arm complaints. The majority of the bricklayers and half of the supervisors believe that their complaints are work-related. Irrespective of occupation, participants with MSDs report substantial problems during work. Workplace intervention measures aimed at occupational physical tasks and activities seem justified for both occupations.
PMCID: PMC3489781  PMID: 23061990
Construction industry; Longitudinal study; Work-related musculoskeletal disorders
7.  Development and qualitative evaluation of an adapted return to work guideline for the sick-listed unemployed and temporary agency workers with minor psychological problems 
BMC Research Notes  2012;5:535.
Among the working population, unemployed and temporary agency workers with psychological problems are a particularly vulnerable group, at risk for sickness absence and prolonged work disability. There is a need for the development of a new protocol for this group, because the existing return to work (RTW) interventions, including practice guidelines, do not address the situation when there is no workplace to return to. The purpose of this study was to (1) describe the adaptations needed in the practice guideline for employed workers to enable its use by insurance physicians (IPs) for counselling of sick-listed unemployed and temporary agency workers with minor psychological problems; and (2) evaluate the experiences of IPs when using the new guidance document for minor psychological problems (MPP guidance document).
The MPP guidance document for unemployed and temporary agency workers was developed through discussions with nine IPs and with the help of an expert. Semi-structured interviews with five IPs were then held to evaluate the IPs’ field experience using the MPP guidance document, in terms of (a) feasibility and (b) perceived usefulness of the MPP guidance document.
The main adaptation introduced in the guideline is that interaction with the workplace, which is absent in this population, needed to be established in an alternative way, i.e., through the involvement of vocational rehabilitation agencies and labour experts. Overall, the guideline required minimal changes. In total, nineteen sick-listed workers were counselled using the MPP guidance document. The overall experience of the IPs was that the MPP guidance document was feasible and useful for the IP, while they had mixed responses on its usefulness for the sick-listed worker, in part due to the follow-up period of this study.
An existing practice guideline for employed workers was adapted for use as a guidance document for unemployed and temporary agency workers with minor psychological problems. IPs were positive about applying the MPP guidance document. The guidance document provides opportunities for RTW counselling for unemployed and temporary agency workers with minor psychological problems.
PMCID: PMC3519800  PMID: 23014258
Unemployment; Participation; Return-to-work; Vocational rehabilitation; Counselling; Guideline; Minor psychological problems
8.  EBM E-learning: Feasible and Effective for Occupational Physicians in Different Countries 
Safety and Health at Work  2012;3(3):199-208.
Although evidence-based medicine (EBM) is a useful method for integrating evidence into the decision-making process of occupational physicians, occupational physicians lack EBM knowledge and skills, and do not have the time to learn the EBM method. In order to enable them to educate themselves at the time and place they prefer, we designed an electronic EBM course. We studied the feasibility and utility of the course as well as its effectiveness in increasing EBM knowledge, skills, and behaviour.
Occupational physicians from various countries were included in a within-subjects study. Measurements were conducted on participants' EBM knowledge, skills, behaviour, and determinants of behaviour at baseline, directly after finishing the course and 2 months later (n = 36). The feasibility and utility of the course were evaluated directly after the course (n = 42).
The course is applicable as an introductory course on EBM for occupational physicians in various countries. The course is effective in enhancing EBM knowledge and self-efficacy in practising EBM. No significant effect was found on EBM skills, behaviour, and determinants of behaviour. After the course, more occupational physicians use the international journals to solve a case.
An electronic introductory EBM course is suitable for occupational physicians. Although it is an effective method for increasing EBM knowledge, it does not seem effective in improving skills and behaviour. We recommend integrating e-learning courses with blended learning, where it can be used side by side with other educational methods that are effective in changing behaviour.
PMCID: PMC3443695  PMID: 23019532
Evidence-based medicine; Distance education; Occupational health; Medical education
9.  The prevalence of common mental disorders among hospital physicians and their association with self-reported work ability: a cross-sectional study 
We studied the prevalence of common mental disorders among Dutch hospital physicians and investigated whether the presence of a mental disorder was associated with insufficient self-reported work ability.
A questionnaire was sent to all (n = 958) hospital physicians of one academic medical center, using validated scales to assess burnout, work-related fatigue, stress, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression. Furthermore, respondents were asked to rate their current work ability against the work ability in their own best period (adapted version of the first WAI item). The prevalence of each common mental disorder was calculated. In addition, odds ratios of reporting insufficient work ability for subjects with high complaint scores compared to physicians with low complaint scores were calculated for each mental disorder.
The response rate was 51%, and 423 questionnaires were eligible for analysis. The mental disorder prevalence rates were as follows: work-related fatigue 42%, depression 29%, anxiety 24%, posttraumatic stress complaints 15%, stress complaints 15% and burnout 6%. The mean score for self-reported work ability was 8.1 (range 0–10), and 4% of respondents rated their own work ability as insufficient. Physicians with high mental health complaints were 3.5- for fatigue, 5.6- for PTSD, 7.1- for anxiety, 9.5- for burnout, 10.8- for depression and 13.6-fold for stress more likely to report their work ability as insufficient.
The prevalence of common mental disorders among hospital physicians varied from 6% for burnout to 42% for work-related fatigue. Those physicians with high complaints had significantly 4- to 14 times increased odds of reporting their own work ability as insufficient. This work suggests that to ensure future workers health and patients safety occupational health services should plan appropriate intervention strategies.
PMCID: PMC3459739  PMID: 22938170
10.  Changes in work situation and work ability in young female and male workers. A prospective cohort study 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:694.
Good work ability is very important in young workers, but knowledge of work situations that influence work ability in this group is poor. The aim of this study was to assess whether changes in self-reported work factors are associated with self-reported work ability among young female and male workers.
A sample of 1,311 (718 women and 593 men) was selected from a Swedish cohort of workers aged 21–25 years. At baseline and at 1-year follow-up, participants completed a self-administrated questionnaire including ratings of physical and psychosocial work factors and current work ability. Prevalence ratios were calculated to assess univariate and multivariate associations between changes in work factors and changes in work ability.
Decreased job control (PR 1.7, 95% CI 1.49–2.12) and increased negative influence of job demands on private life (PR 1.5, 95% CI 1.25–1.69) were associated with reduced work ability for both female and male workers in the multivariate analyses. Among female workers, an association was found between improved work ability and increased social support at work (PR 2.4, CI 1.43–3.95). For male workers, increased job control (PR 2.3, 95% CI 1.21–4.54) and decreased negative influence of job demands on private life (PR 2.1, 95% CI 1.10–3.87) were associated with improved work ability in the multivariate analyses.
Decreased job control and increased negative influence of job demands on private life over time seem to be the most important work factors associated with reduced work ability among young workers of both sexes. Increased social support at work, increased job control, and decreased negative influence of job demands on private life were also found to be the main work factors associated with improved work ability, although with possible gender differences.
PMCID: PMC3508794  PMID: 22920936
Work ability score; Work exposure; Epidemiology; Risk factors
11.  Prevention of musculoskeletal disorders in workers: classification and health surveillance – statements of the Scientific Committee on Musculoskeletal Disorders of the International Commission on Occupational Health 
The underlying purpose of this commentary and position paper is to achieve evidence-based recommendations on prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Such prevention can take different forms (primary, secondary and tertiary), occur at different levels (i.e. in a clinical setting, at the workplace, at national level) and involve several types of activities. Members of the Scientific Committee (SC) on MSDs of the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH) and other interested scientists and members of the public recently discussed the scientific and clinical future of prevention of (work-related) MSDs during five round-table sessions at two ICOH conferences (in Cape Town, South Africa, in 2009, and in Angers, France, in 2010). Approximately 50 researchers participated in each of the sessions. More specifically, the sessions aimed to discuss new developments since 1996 in measures and classification systems used both in research and in practice, and agree on future needs in the field.
The discussion focused on three questions: At what degree of severity does musculoskeletal ill health, and do health problems related to MSDs, in an individual worker or in a group of workers justify preventive action in occupational health? What reliable and valid instruments do we have in research to distinguish ‘normal musculoskeletal symptoms’ from ‘serious musculoskeletal symptoms’ in workers? What measures or classification system of musculoskeletal health will we need in the near future to address musculoskeletal health and related work ability?
Four new, agreed-upon statements were extrapolated from the discussions: 1. Musculoskeletal discomfort that is at risk of worsening with work activities, and that affects work ability or quality of life, needs to be identified. 2. We need to know our options of actions before identifying workers at risk (providing evidence-based medicine and applying the principle of best practice). 3. Classification systems and measures must include aspects such as the severity, frequency, and intensity of pain, as well as measures of impairment of functioning, which can help in prevention, treatment and prognosis. 4. We need to be aware of economic and/or socio-cultural consequences of classification systems and measures.
PMCID: PMC3437218  PMID: 22721454
Occupation; Epidemiology; Prevention; Aetiology; Expert opinion; Occupational health; Public health; Rheumatology; Rehabilitation; Orthopaedics
12.  Return to Work after an Acute Coronary Syndrome: Patients' Perspective 
Safety and Health at Work  2012;3(2):117-122.
To describe the time perspective of return to work and the factors that facilitate and hinder return to work in a group of survivors of acute coronary syndrome (ACS).
Retrospective semi-structured telephone survey 2 to 3 years after hospitalization with 84 employed Dutch ACS-patients from one academic medical hospital.
Fifty-eight percent of patients returned to work within 3 months, whereas at least 88% returned to work once within 2 years. Two years after hospitalization, 12% of ACS patients had not returned to work at all, and 24% were working, but not at pre-ACS levels. For all ACS-patients, the most mentioned categories of facilitating factors to return to work were having no complaints and not having signs or symptoms of heart disease. Physical incapacity, co-morbidity, and mental incapacity were the top 3 categories of hindering factors against returning to work.
Within 2 years, 36% of the patients had not returned to work at their pre-ACS levels. Disease factors, functional capacity, environmental factors, and personal factors were listed as affecting subjects' work ability level.
PMCID: PMC3440460  PMID: 22993716
Acute coronary syndrome; Return to work; Facilitating; Hindering factors
13.  What factors are most relevant to the assessment of work ability of employees on long-term sick leave? The physicians’ perspective 
To reach insurance physician (IPs) consensus on factors that must be taken into account in the assessment of the work ability of employees who are sick-listed for 2 years.
A Delphi study using online questionnaires was conducted from October 2010 to March 2011.
One hundred and two insurance physicians reached a consensus on important factors for return to work (RTW) of employees on long-term sick leave; from those factors, the most relevant for the assessment of work ability was determined. From a total of 22 relevant factors considered for the return to work of long-term sick-listed employees, consensus was reached on nine relevant factors that need to be taken into account in the assessment of the work ability of employees on long-term sick leave. Relevant factors that support return to work are motivation, attitude towards RTW, assessment of cognitions and behaviour, vocational rehabilitation in an early stage and instruction for the sick-listed employee to cope with his disabilities. Relevant factors that hinder RTW are secondary gain from illness, negative perceptions of illness, inefficient coping style and incorrect advice of treating physicians regarding RTW.
Non-medical personal and environmental factors may either hinder or promote RTW and must be considered in the assessment of the work ability of long-term sick-listed employees. Assessment of work ability should start early during the sick leave period. These factors may be used by IPs to improve the quality of the assessment of the work ability of employees on long-term sick leave.
PMCID: PMC3679417  PMID: 22622322
Long-term sick leave; Sick-listed employees; Work ability assessment; Physicians’ perspective; Disability assessment
14.  Prognostic Factors for the Work Participation of Sick-Listed Unemployed and Temporary Agency Workers with Psychological Problems 
Introduction Among the working population, unemployed and temporary agency workers are a particularly vulnerable group, at risk for sickness absence due to psychological problems. Knowledge of prognostic factors for work participation could help identify sick-listed workers with a high-risk for work disability and provide input for sickness absence counseling. The purpose of this study was to identify prognostic factors for the work participation of medium- and long-term sick-listed unemployed and temporary agency workers with psychological problems. Methods A cohort of 932 sick-listed unemployed and temporary agency workers with psychological problems was followed for one and a half years. Data collection was conducted at three time-frames: 10 months, 18 months and 27 months after reporting sick. Univariate and multiple logistic regression analyses were performed. Results Perceived health, full return-to-work (RTW) expectations, age and work status at 18 months were strong prognostic factors for work participation at subsequent time-frames in the univariate analyses. Multiple logistic regression revealed that full RTW expectation was a prognostic factor for future work participation in both the medium- and long-term, whereas moderate-to-good perceived health was a prognostic factor for work participation in the medium-term. Being under 45 years of age and having a positive work status at 18 months were prognostic factors for work participation in the long-term. Conclusions Workers’ self-appraisal of health, age and work status were strong prognostic factors for the future work participation of sick-listed unemployed and temporary agency workers with psychological problems. These findings could help occupational and insurance physicians identify high-risk sick-listed workers for sickness absence counseling.
PMCID: PMC3484312  PMID: 22481379
Unemployment; Participation; Psychological problems; Prognostic factors; Vocational rehabilitation
15.  Measuring short-term and long-term physiological stress effects by cortisol reactivity in saliva and hair 
The aims of this study were to investigate (1) the concurrent relationship between short-term and long-term stress reactivity measured by cortisol excretion and (2) the relationship of these physiological stress effects with self-reported stress and need for recovery after work (NFR).
Participants were production workers in the meat-processing industry. Short-term cortisol excretion was calculated by summing 18 saliva samples, sampled over a 3-day period. Samples were delivered by 37 participants. Twenty-nine of them also supplied one hair sample of at least 3 cm in length for an analysis of long-term (3 months) cortisol excretion. All of them filled in a short questionnaire on self-reported stress and NFR. Self-reported stress was assessed by a three-item stress screener; NFR was assessed by an 11-item scale.
Short-term and long-term cortisol excretion are significantly, but moderately, associated (r = 0.41, P = 0.03). Short-term and long-term cortisol excretion correlated weakly to self-reported stress and NFR (correlations varied from −0.04 to 0.21).
Short-term and long-term physiological stress excretion levels are moderately associated. Physiological stress effects assessed from saliva and hair cannot be used interchangeably with self-reported stress because they only correlate weakly. To better predict long-term cortisol excretion in workers, the predictive value of short-term cortisol excretion must be evaluated in a prognostic longitudinal study in a working population.
PMCID: PMC3480579  PMID: 22183048
Hair; Saliva; Cortisol; Stress; Measurement
16.  Long-Term Outcomes Following Vocational Rehabilitation Treatments in Patients with Prolonged Fatigue 
Multi-component vocational rehabilitation (VR) provides positive short-term outcomes in patients with prolonged fatigue.
The purpose of this study is to evaluate the long-term outcomes of Dutch multi-component VR up to 18 months after treatment.
In a pre–post-study, measurements were taken before treatment (t0), after treatment (t1) and in long-term follow-ups at 6 (t2), 12 (t3) and 18 months (t4) after treatment. Primary outcomes (fatigue, work participation and workability) and secondary outcomes [physical and social functioning, mental health and heart rate variability (HRV)] were assessed over time using linear mixed models analyses. Post hoc long-term outcomes were compared with t0 and t1.
Sixty patients with severe fatigue complaints participated. The primary outcomes significantly (p < 0.001) improved at follow-ups compared with t0 and showed no relapse compared with t1. Moreover, fatigue decreased (p < 0.002) whereas workability (p < 0.001) and work participation (p < 0.001) increased further after treatment (t1). The secondary outcomes, physical functioning, mental health, social functioning and HRV, improved significantly (p < 0.001, p < 0.001, p < 0.001 and p = 0.049, respectively) over the long term compared with t0. At 6-month follow-up (t2), mental health (p < 0.003) and social functioning (p = 0.003) further increased after the treatment was stopped.
Multi-component VR treatments seem to significantly and in a clinically relevant way decrease fatigue symptoms and improve individual functioning and work participation in patients with severe prolonged fatigue over the long term and without showing relapse.
PMCID: PMC3576556  PMID: 22135188
Biopsychosocial intervention; Multi-component treatment; Practice-based research; Prolonged fatigue complaints; Return to work; Work-directed intervention
17.  Facilitators and Barriers in the Use of a Checklist by Insurance Physicians during Work Ability Assessments in Depressive Disorder 
Safety and Health at Work  2011;2(4):328-335.
Depressive disorder (DD) is a complex disease, and the assessment of work ability in patients with DD is also complicated. The checklist depression (CDp) has recently been developed to support such work ability assessments and has been recommended for implementation in insurance medicine, starting with an analysis of the organisational and social contexts. The aim of this study was to identify the potential facilitators and barriers in the use of the CDp by insurance physicians (IPs) during work ability assessments of employees on sick leave due to DD.
A qualitative research was conducted based on semi-structured interviews. The participants were IPs with at least one year of work experience in performing work ability assessments. The interviews were audiotaped, transcribed and analysed qualitatively.
Ten IPs (7 males, 3 females; mean 53 years) were interviewed. Important facilitators, which emerged for use of the CDp, were an oral introduction for colleagues and staff, support from management, valuing the increased transparency in work ability assessments with using the CDp, having adequate time for assessments as well as modification of the appearance (colour, plasticised form) and content (clarifying aspects of the examples) of the assessment tool. The fear of the loss of autonomy, lack of added value of the CDp, high workload, inadequate instructions and lack of time were mentioned as barriers.
Adequate introduction to the use of CDp and the fear of the loss of autonomy of IPs need special attention in planning its implementation.
PMCID: PMC3430918  PMID: 22953217
Checklist; Occupational medicine; Major depressive disorder; Work ability
18.  Which subgroups of fire fighters are more prone to work-related diminished health requirements? 
To determine whether certain subgroups of fire fighters are prone to work-related diminished health requirements.
The health requirements for fire-fighting were tested in a workers’ health surveillance (WHS) setting. These health requirements included psychological, physical and sense-related components as well as cardiovascular risk factors. The odds ratio (OR) and 95% confidence interval (95% CI) for the presence of the diminished health requirements were calculated for the subgroups of gender, professionalism and age.
The prevalence of diminished psychological requirements was equivalent among the subgroups, and no significant high-risk group was identified. As compared to men fire fighters, women fire fighters were more likely to have diminished physical requirements (OR 28.5; 95% CI 12.1–66.9) and less likely to have cardiovascular risk factors (OR 0.3; 0.1–0.5). As compared to volunteer fire fighters, professionals were less likely to have diminished physical requirements (OR 0.5; 0.3–0.9), but professionals had a higher prevalence of cardiovascular risk factors with an odds ratio of 1.9 (1.1–3.2). As compared to the youngest fire fighters, the oldest fire fighters were more likely to have diminished sense-related requirements (OR 7.1; 3.4–15.2); a similar comparison could be made between oldest and middle-aged fire fighters (OR 5.1; 2.5–10.5). In addition, the oldest fire fighters were more likely to have cardiovascular risk factors when compared to the youngest (OR 4.4; 1.7–11.1) and to the middle-aged fire fighters (OR 3.1; 1.2–7.9).
Subgroups (gender, professionalism and age) of fire fighters are prone to at least one specific work-related diminished health requirement. Therefore, parts of the WHS could be applied with more attention to these high-risk groups.
PMCID: PMC3440560  PMID: 22105653
Fire fighter; Adverse health effect; High-risk; Subgroup
19.  Health Behaviors, Care Needs and Attitudes towards Self-Prescription: A Cross-Sectional Survey among Dutch Medical Students 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e28038.
There is a growing awareness of the potent ways in which the wellbeing of physicians impacts the health of their patients. The purpose of this study was to investigate the health behaviors, care needs and attitudes towards self-prescription of Dutch medical students, and any differences between junior preclinical and senior clinically active students.
All students (n = 2695) of a major Dutch medical school were invited for an online survey. Physical activity, eating habits, alcohol consumption, smoking, Body Mass Index, substance use and amount of sleep per night were inquired, as well as their need for different forms of care and their attitude towards self-prescription.
Data of 902 students were used. Physical activity levels (90% sufficient) and smoking prevalence (94% non-smokers) were satisfying. Healthy eating habits (51% insufficient) and alcohol consumption (46% excessive) were worrying. Body Mass Indexes were acceptable (20% unhealthy). We found no significant differences in health behaviors between preclinical and clinically active students. Care needs were significantly lower among clinically active students. (p<0.05) Student acceptance of self-prescription was significantly higher among clinically active students. (p<0.001)
Unhealthy behaviors are prevalent among medical students, but are no more prevalent during the clinical study phase. The need for specific forms of care appears lower with study progression. This could be worrying as the acceptance of self-care and self-prescription is higher among senior clinical students. Medical faculties need to address students' unhealthy behaviors and meet their care needs for the benefit of both the future physicians as well as their patients.
PMCID: PMC3221693  PMID: 22132202
20.  Psychometric Properties of the Nurses Work Functioning Questionnaire (NWFQ) 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e26565.
The Nurses Work Functioning Questionnaire (NWFQ) is a 50-item self-report questionnaire specifically developed for nurses and allied health professionals. Its seven subscales measure impairments in the work functioning due to common mental disorders. Aim of this study is to evaluate the psychometric properties of the NWFQ, by assessing reproducibility and construct validity.
The questionnaire was administered to 314 nurses and allied health professionals with a re-test in 112 subjects. Reproducibility was assessed by the intraclass correlations coefficients (ICC) and the standard error of measurement (SEM). For construct validity, correlations were calculated with a general work functioning scale, the Endicott Work Productivity Scale (EWPS) (convergent validity) and with a physical functioning scale (divergent validity). For discriminative validity, a Mann Whitney U test was performed testing for significant differences between subjects with mental health complaints and without.
All subscales showed good reliability (ICC: 0.72–0.86), except for one (ICC = 0.16). Convergent validity was good in six subscales, correlations ranged from 0.38–0.62. However, in one subscale the correlation with the EWPS was too low (0.22). Divergent validity was good in all subscales based on correlations ranged from (−0.06)–(−0.23). Discriminative validity was good in all subscales, based on significant differences between subjects with and without mental health complaints (p<0.001–p = 0.003).
The NWFQ demonstrates good psychometric properties, for six of the seven subscales. Subscale “impaired decision making” needs improvement before further use.
PMCID: PMC3210752  PMID: 22087231
21.  A trial of a job-specific workers' health surveillance program for construction workers: study protocol 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:743.
Dutch construction workers are offered periodic health examinations. This care can be improved by tailoring this workers health surveillance (WHS) to the demands of the job and adjust the preventive actions to the specific health risks of a worker in a particular job. To improve the quality of the WHS for construction workers and stimulate relevant job-specific preventive actions by the occupational physician, we have developed a job-specific WHS. The job-specific WHS consists of modules assessing both physical and psychological requirements. The selected measurement instruments chosen, are based on their appropriateness to measure the workers' capacity and health requirements. They include a questionnaire and biometrical tests, and physical performance tests that measure physical functional capabilities. Furthermore, our job-specific WHS provides occupational physicians with a protocol to increase the worker-behavioural effectiveness of their counselling and to stimulate job-specific preventive actions. The objective of this paper is to describe and clarify our study to evaluate the behavioural effects of this job-specific WHS on workers and occupational physicians.
The ongoing study of bricklayers and supervisors is a nonrandomised trial to compare the outcome of an intervention (job-specific WHS) group (n = 206) with that of a control (WHS) group (n = 206). The study includes a three-month follow-up. The primary outcome measure is the proportion of participants who have undertaken one or more of the preventive actions advised by their occupational physician in the three months after attending the WHS. A process evaluation will be carried out to determine context, reach, dose delivered, dose received, fidelity, and satisfaction. The present study is in accordance with the TREND Statement.
This study will allow an evaluation of the behaviour of both the workers and occupational physician regarding the preventive actions undertaken by them within the scope of a job-specific WHS.
Trial registration
PMCID: PMC3192691  PMID: 21958019
22.  Feasibility and Acceptability of Workers' Health Surveillance for Fire Fighters 
Safety and Health at Work  2011;2(3):218-228.
The objective of this study was to test the feasibility and acceptability of a new workers' health surveillance (WHS) for fire fighters in a Dutch pilot-implementation project.
In three fire departments, between November 2007 and February 2009, feasibility was tested with respect to i) worker intent to change health and behavior; ii) the quality of instructions for testing teams; iii) the planned procedure in the field; and iv) future WHS organisation. Acceptability involved i) satisfaction with WHS and ii) verification of the job-specificity of the content of two physical tests of WHS. Fire fighters were surveyed after completing WHS, three testing teams were interviewed, and the content of the two tests was studied by experts.
Feasibility: nearly all of the 275 fire fighters intended to improve their health when recommended by the occupational physician. The testing teams found the instructions to be clear, and they were mostly positive about the organisation of WHS. Acceptability: the fire fighters rated WHS at eight points (out of a maximum of ten). The experts also reached a consensus about the optimal job-specific content of the future functional physical tests.
Overall, it is feasible and acceptable to implement WHS in a definitive form in the Dutch fire-fighting sector.
PMCID: PMC3430907  PMID: 22953205
Feasibility studies; Occupational health
23.  The Mental Vitality @ Work study: design of a randomized controlled trial on the effect of a workers' health surveillance mental module for nurses and allied health professionals 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:290.
Employees in health care service are at high risk for developing mental health complaints. The effects of mental health complaints on work can have serious consequences for the quality of care provided by these workers. To help health service workers remain healthy and productive, preventive actions are necessary. A Workers' Health Surveillance (WHS) mental module may be an effective strategy to monitor and promote good (mental) health and work performance. The objective of this paper is to describe the design of a three arm cluster randomized controlled trial on the effectiveness of a WHS mental module for nurses and allied health professionals. Two strategies for this WHS mental module will be compared along with data from a control group. Additionally, the cost effectiveness of the approaches will be evaluated from a societal perspective.
The study is designed as a cluster randomized controlled trial consisting of three arms (two intervention groups, 1 control group) with randomization at ward level. The study population consists of 86 departments in one Dutch academic medical center with a total of 1731 nurses and allied health professionals. At baseline, after three months and after six months of follow-up, outcomes will be assessed by online questionnaires. In both intervention arms, participants will complete a screening to detect problems in mental health and work functioning and receive feedback on their screening results. In cases of impairments in mental health or work functioning in the first intervention arm, a consultation with an occupational physician will be offered. The second intervention arm offers a choice of self-help e-mental health interventions, which will be tailored based on each individual's mental health state and work functioning. The primary outcomes will be help-seeking behavior and work functioning. Secondary outcomes will be mental health and wellbeing. Furthermore, cost-effectiveness in both intervention arms will be assessed, and a process evaluation will be performed.
When it is proven effective compared to a control group, a WHS mental module for nurses and allied health professionals could be implemented and used on a regular basis by occupational health services in hospitals to improve employees' mental health and work functioning.
Trial Registration
PMCID: PMC3112124  PMID: 21569282
24.  The prevalence and incidence of musculoskeletal symptoms among hospital physicians: a systematic review 
Physicians are exposed to a range of work-related risk factors that may result in occupational diseases. This systematic review aims at shedding light on the prevalence and incidence of musculoskeletal complaints among hospital physicians.
A systematic literature search was performed in Pubmed and EMBASE (1990–2010), and methodological quality criteria were applied. A search was done for musculoskeletal complaints.
Five medium-quality studies and three high-quality studies were included in this review. The definitions and assessment used in the studies for musculoskeletal complaints were different. In short, the frequently reported prevalence for hand and wrist pain was 8–33 and 0%, 17% for shoulder pain, and 9–28% for neck pain. Moreover, the annual prevalence of low back pain was between 33 and 68%.
The limited number of studies makes it difficult to draw conclusions, and the results should be intepreted with care. In conclusion, musculoskeletal complaints may be work-related complaints in hospital physicians, which need future attention.
PMCID: PMC3020318  PMID: 20686782
Hospital; Physicians; Musculoskeletal complaints
25.  Cluster Analysis of Symptoms Among Patients with Upper Extremity Musculoskeletal Disorders 
Introduction Some musculoskeletal disorders of the upper extremity are not readily classified. The study objective was to determine if there were symptom patterns in self-identified repetitive strain injury (RSI) patients. Methods Members (n = 700) of the Dutch RSI Patients Association filled out a detailed symptom questionnaire. Factor analysis followed by cluster analysis grouped correlated symptoms. Results Eight clusters, based largely on symptom severity and quality were formulated. All but one cluster showed diffuse symptoms; the exception was characterized by bilateral symptoms of stiffness and aching pain in the shoulder/neck. Conclusions Case definitions which localize upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders to a specific anatomical area may be incomplete. Future clustering studies should rely on both signs and symptoms. Data could be collected from health care providers prospectively to determine the possible prognostic value of the identified clusters with respect to natural history, chronicity, and return to work.
PMCID: PMC2980628  PMID: 20414797
Case definition; Classification; MSD; RSI; Non-specific; Factor analysis

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