Development and implementation of a participative intervention to improve the psychosocial work environment and mental health in an acute care hospital

Occup Environ Med. 2006 May;63(5):326-34. doi: 10.1136/oem.2004.018069.


Objectives: To describe the development and implementation phases of a participative intervention aimed at reducing four theory grounded and empirically supported adverse psychosocial work factors (high psychological demands, low decision latitude, low social support, and low reward), and their mental health effects.

Methods: The intervention was realised among 500 care providers in an acute care hospital. A prior risk evaluation was performed, using a quantitative approach, to determine the prevalence of adverse psychosocial work factors and of psychological distress in the hospital compared to an appropriate reference population. In addition, a qualitative approach included observation in the care units, interviews with key informants, and collaborative work with an intervention team (IT) including all stakeholders.

Results: The prior risk evaluation showed a high prevalence of adverse psychosocial factors and psychological distress among care providers compared to a representative sample of workers from the general population. Psychosocial variables at work associated with psychological distress in the prior risk evaluation were high psychological demands (prevalence ratio (PR) = 2.27), low social support from supervisors and co-workers (PR = 1.35), low reward (PR = 2.92), and effort-reward imbalance (PR = 2.65). These results showed the empirical relevance of an intervention on the four selected adverse psychosocial factors among care providers. Qualitative methods permitted the identification of 56 adverse conditions and of their solutions. Targets of intervention were related to team work and team spirit, staffing processes, work organisation, training, communication, and ergonomy.

Conclusion: This study adds to the scarce literature describing the development and implementation of preventive intervention aimed at reducing psychosocial factors at work and their health effects. Even if adverse conditions in the psychosocial environment and solutions identified in this study may be specific to the healthcare sector, the intervention process used (participative problem solving) appears highly exportable to other work organisations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Hospitals*
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction
  • Male
  • Medical Staff, Hospital*
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Occupational Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Occupational Health*
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control*
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Workload