Purpose: To describe and analyse physicians' experiences of working with sick-listing and vocational rehabilitation, their perceptions of their co-actors and the interaction they participate in.
Method: Thematic interviews with 14 physicians in Västerbotten County, northern Sweden. The physicians were active in primary or occupational health care, or as hospital doctors. The interviews were conducted during the autumn of 1996. The interviews were tape recorded and analysed according to Grounded theory.
Results: Feelings of isolation and diminished control, lack of time and increased demands are all seen as obstacles for doing an optimal job with sick-listing and rehabilitation. Other obstacles are insufficient knowledge regarding the labour market and the social insurance legislation. Interaction between primary and in-patient care does not function satisfactorily. The doctors believe in their patients and a majority of the doctors feel that the patients' own understanding of/need for sick-listing guides the doctor in his or her position regarding sick-listing. To facilitate return to work, the doctors encourage part-time sick-listing.
Conclusions: The interviews show that the physicians experience a growing discrepancy between ideal and reality. They want to be able to act as "team players", but experience increasing demands due to the increased number of patients who are sicker than before. The doctors experience that decision latitude has diminished and this has been followed by less time for patients.