Important knowledge of work environment risks and health factors in health care personnel

Swedish Agency for Work Environment Expertise has reported its mission on the working environment in healthcare to the government. It is clear that it is a pressured industry where employees have considered changing their workplaces. It is also clear that the knowledge that already exists about how to promote a good and sustainable working environment is not used to the extent that would be needed.

The results of our study about work environment risks and health factors in health care personnel show that there are differences between nursing assistants, nurses and doctors in public health care in what they perceive as risk and health factors. What the professional groups have in common is that they experience a worse working environment than the rest of the labor market and that three out of ten have symptoms of stress-related ill health. Almost half have had thoughts of leaving their job.

Two perspectives need to be prioritized

The results also show that risk and health factors are related to the organizations’ way of managing work, for example through staffing and scheduling, and also to the organization’s way of conveying priorities and values. Both of these perspectives need to be prioritized for a good and sustainable working environment, according to the results.

– By contributing to the knowledge in the area, we can in this government mission support a sustainable, healthy and safe working environment for healthcare personnel. It is important to compile what constitutes risks in the work environment. But it is also important to understand what in the work environment is health-promoting, what we call health factors, says Thomas Nessen, process leading analyst at the Swedish Agency for Work Environment Expertise.

Existing knowledge is not used

The Swedish Authority for Work Environment Expertise also investigated how interventions in the workplace affect work environment and health. Interventions were found to lead to lower levels of perceived burnout, improved job satisfaction and reduced stress levels. Both individual and organizational interventions can promote the health and well-being of healthcare workers, even if the effects were small.

According to the study, a central measure to strengthen the work environment in healthcare is to establish a functioning systematic work environment work. This, in turn, requires long-term planning, leadership and competence in various parts of the organizations concerned. The result indicates that knowledge already exists about how the working environment can be promoted, but that it is not used.

Read the systematic literature review Risk and health-promoting factors in the healthcare sector- organisational factors of importance to the health of employees (pdf)

Read A report of work environment and health among assistant nurses, registered nurses and physicians in Sweden’s public healthcare system (pdf)

Read the report Interventions for achieving good psychosocial health in the healthcare sector (pdf)

About the government assignment

In 2021, the government tasked us with gathering and compiling knowledge about work environment risks and health factors among health care personnel. Within the framework of the assignment, it is also included to disseminate the results of the compiled knowledge so that it can constitute support for, among other things, employers, managers, safety representatives and other elected representatives at the workplaces concerned.