Health, Work and Wellbeing Network

Bringing together people interested in health, work and wellbeing research

Principal Investigator:
Professor Ann Therese Lotherington
NORUT Social Science Research, Tromsø, Norway

Professor Susan Halford
School of Social Sciences
Southampton University

Funder: Norwegian Research Council (as part of a large programme on Sick Leave)
Date: October 2009 – September 2012

Aims: The focus of the proposed project is on the healthcare sector as a workplace where major changes are taking place related to the process of digitalising important work tools for nurses and doctors. The introduction of ICT-solutions represents an important answer to the problems of increased demands from patients, whilst at the same time less economic and human recourses are available for the delivery of the healthcare services. The new ICT systems promise to increase both the efficiency and the quality of healthcare services. The overall research question is formulated:

To what extent, and how, are mechanisms for inclusion and/or exclusion of ageing healthcare personnel produced in the process of restructuring healthcare work with ICT?

Leading to 3 sub-questions:

  • What differences do new technologies make for medical and nursing work, and how do these differences influence on older doctors‘ and nurses‘ relationship to the healthcare sector as a workplace?
  • How do, if at all, the management, labour unions, and the older healthcare personnel themselves act according to the new working routines implied by the EPRs in order to prevent exclusion and advance inclusion of older healthcare personnel?
  • What can the healthcare sector as a workplace do to make a digitalised healthcare workplace attractive for ageing healthcare personnel?

The research questions address the societal, individual and workplace related causes for sick leave, exclusion and early retirement underscored in the programme plan.

Design: It will be based in two teaching hospitals in the Norwegian public healthcare system focusing on an electronic patient record (EPR) system widely used within Norwegian hospitals. The hospitals are both University Hospitals but in two different health regions, using the same EPR-system but differ in the way they have implemented it.

Methods. quantitative and qualitative elements. The quantitative part will be a survey of a stratified sample of medical doctors and nurses. In addition to personal background variables (age, sex, formal education, occupation, position, type of unit, duration of employment), one set of questions will be related to their use of ICT today; their introduction to it and training to use it; support from management, IT personnel, labour unions, and colleagues. A second set of questions will be about the healthcare institution as a workplace; how they see themselves and others as ageing in this part of the labour market. A third set of questions will be about their recommendations to the management regarding the inclusion of older healthcare workers in the digitalized part of healthcare as a workplace. A fourth set of questions will be about changing jobs and/or early retirement, and the role of ICT in such decisions.

The qualitative part will include documentary analysis, observation, informal discussions/walking and talking, semi-structured interviews, focus groups and visuals with older health professions and managers and representatives of labour unions.

The result of the survey and the qualitative work will feed into a set of workshops comprising individuals from each of the above mentioned groups. The purpose is to confront, link and merge the experiences and knowledge of the researchers and the various healthcare actors in order to develop new knowledge about the organising of the hospital as a healthy workplace for elderly healthcare workers. The last part of the project will be to produce a documentary film about ageing healthcare workers in the area of digitalisation of core work processes within healthcare for educational purposes and as an asset for the policy for inclusive working life (IA).