A Participatory Return-to-Work Program for Temporary Agency Workers and Unemployed Workers Sick-Listed Due to Musculoskeletal Disorders: a Process Evaluation Alongside a Randomized Controlled Trial

K.M. van Beurden, S. Vermeulen, J.R. Anema, A.J. van der Beek

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Beside (cost-)effectiveness, the feasibility of an intervention is important for successful implementation in daily practice. This study concerns the process evaluation of a newly developed participatory return-to-work (RTW) program for workers without an employment contract, sick-listed due to musculoskeletal disorders. The program consisted of a stepwise process, guided by an independent RTW coordinator, aimed at making a consensus-based RTW plan with the possibility of a temporary (therapeutic) workplace. The aims of this study were to describe the reach and extent of implementation of the new program, the satisfaction and experiences of all stakeholders, and the perceived barriers and facilitators for implementation of the program in daily practice. Temporary agency workers and unemployed workers, sick-listed for 2-8 weeks due to musculoskeletal disorders were eligible for this study. Data were collected from the workers; their insurance physicians and labour experts at the Dutch Social Security Agency; RTW coordinators; and case managers from participating vocational rehabilitation agencies. Data collection took place using professionals' reports, standardized matrices, questionnaires at baseline and at 3-month follow-up, and group interviews with the professionals. Of the 79 workers who were allocated to the participatory RTW program group, 72 workers actually started with the intervention. Overall, implementation of the program was performed according to protocol. However, offering of suitable temporary workplaces was delayed with 44.5 days. Results showed satisfaction with the RTW coordinator among the workers and three quarters of the labour experts experienced a minor or major contribution of the presence of the RTW coordinator. Several barriers for implementation were identified, such as the administrative time-investment, unclear information about the program, no timely offering of temporary (therapeutic) workplaces, and the need for additional support in case of complex health problems. This study indicates overall feasibility for implementation of the participatory RTW program in daily practice. However, to overcome important barriers, more attention should be paid to improve timely offering of suitable temporary workplaces, to describe more clearly the program goals and the professional's roles, and to offer additional support for workers suffering from complex multi-causal health problems. NTR1047
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)127-140
JournalJournal of Occupational Rehabilitation
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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