Wednesday, 22 June 2016

SPHPM PhD candidate investigates what influences injured people when considering a return to work

Ollie Black is a PhD Candidate and Research Assistant with the Monash Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health (MonCOEH) at SPHPM – in addition to having just completed his mid-candidature progress review, the first part of his PhD project was recently published in Quality and Quantity. Co-authors on the paper included Associate Professor Peter Smith, Professor Malcolm Sim and Professor Alexander Collie.

Ollie's PhD is focused on return-to-work self-efficacy (RTW-SE), that is, the theory that a person has the psychological and social resources to undertake the actions required to successfully return to work. His PhD project focuses on the role of RTW-SE in return to work, and if this relationship differs for people with musculoskeletal and psychological injuries.

“I'm focusing on a concept called self-efficacy which is concerned with people’s beliefs in their ability to achieve something. While the clinical perspective for recovery is obviously very important, it is becoming more evident that the majority of what determines someone's journey back to work has to do with non-injury factors; of which, self-efficacy appears to be an important one,” Ollie said.

“Initially I conducted an exploratory analysis to determine if the basic concept of return-to-work self-efficacy applies to both injury types, and what sort of beliefs the injured worker felt were important when considering a return to work.”

This established the factor structure and construct validity of a modified return-to-work self-efficacy measure in a sample of injured workers with musculoskeletal or psychological work-related injuries. 

"These factors, or dimensions, can be thought of as groupings that are characterised by the responses to particular questions. By grouping these responses together, we can estimate concepts which are occurring within a person, such as beliefs but which cannot be directly observed from the outside," Ollie said.

The model looked at differences in levels of RTW-SE which were then examined across injury type, work absence, and the ability to cope with injury. Three dimensions of RTW-SE were extracted; work completion beliefs (three items), affective work beliefs (five items) and work social support beliefs (three items).

"Although the language sounds complicated, the dimensions basically correspond to three main considerations a person likely has when they are contemplating returning to work. It appears a person contemplates the belief in their ability to actually do their work tasks, the belief in their ability to emotionally deal with the rigours of the workplace and the belief in their ability to handle the social aspects of returning to work," Ollie said.

The model worked well, and has revealed some interesting correlations between injured cohorts, in particular that the workers’ current ability to cope with the injury was moderately correlated with all RTW-SE dimensions but was lowest with the social dimension.

Psychological injuries were also associated with lower levels RTW-SE, except on the work completion beliefs. Increasing work absence was associated with lower levels of RTW-SE except on affective work beliefs, which the analysis showed as plateaued from 51 to 150 days of absence.

Ollie is currently enrolled full-time as a PhD candidate as part of an ARC-Linkage grant focused on better understanding the return to work process in Victoria but hopes to stay in research when he completes his PhD in a year or so.

“After my PhD, I hope to be able to remain in research and apply what I'm learning to interventions which have a tangible impact on injured workers' recovery; particularly those with psychological injuries. I think this area of research is really important to the health of the population going forward,” said Ollie.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed your blog very much.Nice information. Very thank you for sharing

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