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Open Access Research article

Does feeling respected influence return to work? Cross-sectional study on sick-listed patients’ experiences of encounters with social insurance office staff

Niels Lynöe1, Maja Wessel1, Daniel Olsson2, Kristina Alexanderson3 and Gert Helgesson1*

Author Affiliations

1 Stockholm Centre for Healthcare Ethics (CHE), Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm SE-171 77, Sweden

2 Department of Environmental Medicine (IMM), Unit of Biostatistics, Division of Epidemiology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

3 Department of Clinical Neuroscience (CNS), Division of Insurance Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:268  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-268

Published: 23 March 2013

Abstract

Background

Previous research shows that how patients perceive encounters with healthcare staff may affect their health and self-estimated ability to return to work. The aim of the present study was to explore long-term sick-listed patients’ encounters with social insurance office staff and the impact of these encounters on self-estimated ability to return to work.

Methods

A random sample of long-term sick-listed patients (n = 10,042) received a questionnaire containing questions about their experiences of positive and negative encounters and item lists specifying such experiences. Respondents were also asked whether the encounters made them feel respected or wronged and how they estimated the effect of these encounters on their ability to return to work. Statistical analysis was conducted using 95% confidence intervals (CI) for proportions, and attributable risk (AR) with 95% CI.

Results

The response rate was 58%. Encounter items strongly associated with feeling respected were, among others: listened to me, believed me, and answered my questions. Encounter items strongly associated with feeling wronged were, among others: did not believe me, doubted my condition, and questioned my motivation to work. Positive encounters facilitated patients’ self-estimated ability to return to work [26.9% (CI: 22.1-31.7)]. This effect was significantly increased if the patients also felt respected [49.3% (CI: 47.5-51.1)]. Negative encounters impeded self-estimated ability to return to work [29.1% (CI: 24.6-33.6)]; when also feeling wronged return to work was significantly further impeded [51.3% (CI: 47.1-55.5)].

Conclusions

Long-term sick-listed patients find that their self-reported ability to return to work is affected by positive and negative encounters with social insurance office staff. This effect is further enhanced by feeling respected or wronged, respectively.

Keywords:
Encounters; Ethics; Long-term sickness absentees; Return to work; Social insurance office staff; Sweden