Difficulties in recruitment and retention, high rates of work injuries, illnesses and absences from work, and escalating costs plague Canada's healthcare system. The well-being of the healthcare workforce merits serious consideration by healthcare decision-makers.
It is increasingly well documented that a collaborative problem-solving approach is more effective in addressing workplace health concerns than an adversarial approach. Combining this with strategies based on good evidence is key to success. On this premise, a trial was conducted in British Columbia, beginning in July 1999, based on a collaborative approach in which healthcare workers and managers work together to identify and implement evidence-based initiatives to improve the health and working conditions of healthcare workers. A province-wide needs assessment was conducted, world literature was reviewed, focus groups were held with the various stakeholders, and direct input was sought from researchers as well as local practitioners. Cost-benefit analyses were conducted and key decision-makers brought together to reach agreements.
"Best practice" guidelines were therefore developed on patient handling, complete with a training program and funding agreements to obtain the capital equipment needed. An innovative best practice program was also developed to promote early and safe return-to-work for injured hospital workers. Other evidence-based pilot programs are being developed, implemented and evaluated.
Results to date illustrate that a collaborative evidence-based approach, where all parties work together in the face of challenge, is the way forward in addressing the occupational health needs of the healthcare workforce.
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