Perceptions of health professionals towards the management of back pain in the context of work: a qualitative study

Wynne-Jones, Gwenllian, van der Windt, Danielle, Ong, Bie Nio, Bishop, Annette, Cowen, Jemma, Artus, Majid and Sanders, Tom (2014) Perceptions of health professionals towards the management of back pain in the context of work: a qualitative study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 15 (1). ISSN 1471-2474

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2474-15-210

Abstract

Background
Musculoskeletal complaints have a significant impact on work in terms of reduced productivity, sickness absence and long term incapacity for work. This study sought to explore GPs’ and physiotherapists’ perceptions of sickness certification in patients with musculoskeletal problems.

Methods
Eleven (11) GPs were sampled from an existing general practice survey, and six (6) physiotherapists were selected randomly using ‘snowball’ sampling techniques, through established contacts in local physiotherapy departments. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with respondents lasting up to 30 minutes. The interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim, following which they were coded using N-Vivo qualitative software and analysed thematically using the constant comparative methodology, where themes were identified and contrasted between and within both groups of respondents.

Results
Three themes were identified from the analysis: 1) Approaches to evaluating patients’ work problems 2) Perceived ability to manage ‘work and pain’, and 3) Policies and penalties in the work-place. First, physiotherapists routinely asked patients about their job and work difficulties using a structured (protocol-driven) approach, whilst GPs rarely used such structured measures and were less likely to enquire about patients’ work situation. Second, return to work assessments revealed a tension between GPs’ gatekeeper and patient advocacy roles, often resolved in favour of patients’ concerns and needs. Some physiotherapists perceived that GPs’ decisions could be influenced by patients’ demand for a sick certificate and their close relationship with patients made them vulnerable to manipulation. Third, the workplace was considered to be a specific source of strain for patients acting as a barrier to work resumption, and over which GPs and physiotherapists could exercise only limited control.

Conclusion
We conclude that healthcare professionals need to take account of patients’ work difficulties, their own perceived ability to offer effective guidance, and consider the ‘receptivity’ of employment contexts to patients’ work problems, in order to ensure a smooth transition back to work.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Fit note, Sickness absence, Musculoskeletal pain, Health professionals, Primary care, Qualitative
Subjects: B900 Others in Subjects allied to Medicine
Department: Faculties > Health and Life Sciences > Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2019 17:37
Last Modified: 24 Jan 2019 17:45
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/37739

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