Open Access Study protocol

An education programme to increase general practitioners’ awareness of their patients’ employment: design of a cluster randomised controlled trial

Kees A de Kock1*, Romy Steenbeek2, Peter C Buijs3, Peter LBJ Lucassen4, J André Knottnerus5 and Antoine LM Lagro-Janssen1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Primary and Community Care, Gender & Women’s Health, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, PO Box 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands

2 TNO Work and Health, Hoofddorp, The Netherlands

3 TNO Work and Health, Rijswijk, The Netherlands

4 Department of Primary and Community Care, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands

5 Department of General Practice, Maastricht University, Maastricht, The Netherlands

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Family Practice 2014, 15:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2296-15-28

Published: 7 February 2014



Work and being able to work are important prerequisites for health and well being. Health problems can have a negative influence on the ability to work and not being able to work can be detrimental for patients’ psychosocial well being. Although GPs are aware of this importance they do not always structurally pay attention to patients’ work during their daily practice.


To investigate whether GPs can be trained to increase their awareness of work and improve their skills when dealing with work related problems we designed a cluster randomised controlled trial. The intervention in this trial is a tailored training based on the findings of qualitative research with focus groups of GPs. Gender aspects received specific attention in these focus groups. Primary outcome measures are self efficacy of patients concerning return to work, and GPs’ use of ICPC code Z05 (work problems) and registration of patients’ occupation. Secondary outcome measures are work awareness of GPs as perceived by patients, quality of life, health, use of care and illness related costs. A process evaluation will be part of our study.


We investigate a training to increase work awareness among GPs, improve their skills in managing work related problems and structurally register work related data in the EMR. We think this study will make a contribution to better health care for workers by motivating GPs to appreciate their specific needs. It will also add to our knowledge of the complex relationship between gender, work and health.

Trial registration

Trial registration number: NTR3475

Primary health care; RCT; General practitioners; Occupational health physicians; Gender; Absenteism; Presenteeism; Tailored training intervention; Return-to-work; Self-efficacy