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Hospital ergonomics: a qualitative study to explore the organizational and cultural factors

journal contribution
posted on 2007-05-14, 13:45 authored by Sue HignettSue Hignett
The primary objective was to identify the characteristics of the health care industry with respect to organizational and cultural factors and consider how these might impact on the practice of ergonomics. Qualitative methodology was chosen as a suitable approach. This was supported by a middle ground philosophical position. Twenty-one interviews were carried out with academics and practitioners using a questionnaire proforma which developed iteratively over the 18 months of the project. A progressive four stage sampling strategy was used starting with purposive sampling to spread the net. Suggested contacts were then followed up (snowball sampling), before the third stage of intensity sampling to focus on participants with specific experience in hospital ergonomics. A final strategy of analysis sampling sought extreme and deviant cases to achieve theoretical saturation. The analysis resulted in three categories: organizational, staff and patient issues. The organizational issues included both the size and complexity of the National Health Service. For example, three hierarchical lines were identified in the management structure: an administrative line, a professional line and a patient-focused clinical management line. One of the surprising findings for the staff issues was the perceived lack of ergonomic information about female workers as a population group and traditional female employment sectors. The patient issues incorporated three dimensions associated with the caring role: the type of work; expectations; and possible outcomes. The work tends to be dirty and emotional, with a professional subculture to allow the handling of other peoples’ bodies. This subculture was linked to a ‘coping’ attitude where staff put the patients’ needs and well-being before their own. The change in patient expectations (from being apologetic through to demanding their rights) is mirrored in a changing model of care from paternalism to partnership. A lack of ergonomic research was identified for female workers in the health care industry relating to both the type of work and gender issues.



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HIGNETT, S. (2003). Hospital ergonomics: a qualitative study to explore the organizational and cultural factors. Ergonomics 46 (9), pp. 882-903


© Taylor & Francis

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This article is Restricted Access. The article was published in the journal, Ergonomics [© Taylor & Francis] and is available at: http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/00140139.asp




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