Introduction Burnout is a work-related mental health problem and may cause long-term sickness absence. The aim of this study is to develop and assess the effectiveness of a return-to-work intervention that prevents long-term sick leave due to burnout. This intervention will be presented as a multidisciplinary care pathway for burned out employees on sick leave. The study started in January 2016 and will end in December 2019.
Methods We use the Medical Research Council framework to guide 4 phases: development, feasibility, evaluation and implementation. Based on a systematic literature review we made a first draft of the care pathway. During focus groups we discussed this first draft with professionals (i.e. general practitioners, psychologists, occupational physicians) to identify possible barriers and facilitators to implementing the care pathway (development). Next we will conduct a pilot study (feasibility) followed by a cluster randomised trial (CRT) (evaluation). Finally we will use the Reach, Effectiveness, Adoption, Implementation and Maintenance (Re-aim) framework to guide the implementation of the pathway.
Results We finished the systematic review and the focus groups. The systematic review showed that (partly) organisation-oriented return-to-work interventions have a positive effect on return to work. The focus groups revealed that professionals find it difficult to differentiate between burnout and other mental health problems (e.g. depression). They also have different opinions on burnout treatment and the role different stakeholders play during the return-to-work process isn’t always clear for professionals. We continue working on the next phases.
Discussion Several stakeholders (employees, physicians, employers, psychologists) are involved in the care pathway. Therefore, improving communication between these stakeholders during the return-to-work process is an important focus in this study.
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