Background: This study focuses on determinants of a healthy work environment in two departments in a Swedish university hospital. The study is based on previously conducted longitudinal studies at the hospital (1994-2001), concerning working conditions and health outcomes among health care personnel in conjunction with downsizing processes. Overall, there was a general negative trend in relation to mental health, as well as long-term sick leave during the study period. The two departments chosen for the current study differed from the general hospital trend in that they showed stable health development. The aim of the study was to identify and analyse experiential determinants of healthy working conditions.
Methods: Thematic open-ended interviews were carried out with seventeen managers and key informants, representing different groups of co-workers in the two departments. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and an inductive content analysis was made.
Results: In the two studied departments the respondents perceived that it was advantageous to belong to a small department, and to work in cooperation-oriented care. The management approaches described by both managers and co-workers could be interpreted as transformational, due to a strain of visionary, delegating, motivating, confirmative, supportive attitudes and a strongly expressed solution-oriented attitude. The daily work included integrated learning activities. The existing organisational conditions, approaches and attitudes promoted tendencies towards a work climate characterised by trust, team spirit and professionalism. In the description of the themes organisational conditions, approaches and climate, two core determinants, work-pride and confidence, for healthy working conditions were interpreted. Our core determinants augment the well-established concepts: manageability, comprehensiveness and meaningfulness. These favourable conditions seem to function as a buffer against the general negative effects of downsizing observed elsewhere in the hospital, and in the literature.
Conclusion: Research illuminating health-promoting aspects is rather unusual. This study could be seen as explorative. The themes and core dimensions we found could be used as a basis for further intervention studies in similar health-care settings. The result could also be used in future health promotion studies in larger populations. One of the first steps in such a strategy is to formulate relevant questions, and we consider that this study contributes to this.