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Occup Environ Med 60:271-278 doi:10.1136/oem.60.4.271
  • Original article

Work factors as predictors of sickness absence: a three month prospective study of nurses’ aides

  1. W Eriksen1,
  2. D Bruusgaard1,
  3. S Knardahl2
  1. 1Department of General Practice and Community Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2National Institute of Occupational Health, Oslo, Norway, and Institute of Psychology, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr W Eriksen, Department of General Practice and Community Medicine, University of Oslo, PO Box 1130 Blindern, 0318 Oslo, Norway; 
 w.b.eriksen{at}samfunnsmed.uio.no
  • Accepted 10 July 2002

Abstract

Aims: To identify the work factors that predict sickness absence in nurses’ aides.

Methods: The sample comprised 5563 Norwegian nurses’ aides, not on leave because of illness or pregnancy when they completed a mailed questionnaire in 1999. Of these, 4931 (88.6%) completed a second questionnaire three months later. The outcome measure was the three month incidence proportion of certified sickness absence (>3 days), as assessed by self reports at follow up.

Results: Perceived lack of encouraging and supportive culture in the work unit (odds ratio (OR) 1.73; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.28 to 2.34), working in psychiatric and paediatric wards, having injured the neck in an accident, and health complaints were associated with higher risk of sickness absence, after adjustments for a series of physical, psychological, and organisational work factors, personal engagement in the work unit, demographic characteristics, and daily consumption of cigarettes. Having untraditional jobs (for nurses’ aides) (OR 0.53; 95% CI 0.36 to 0.77), and engaging in aerobics or gym were associated with a lower risk of sickness absence.

Conclusions: The study suggests that the three month effects of work factors on rates of certified sickness absence are modest in nurses’ aides. The most important work factor, in terms of predicting sickness absence, seems to be perceived lack of encouraging and supportive culture in the work unit.

Footnotes