A study by
The George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services
suggests that the higher the work-family conflict the greater the risk that
health care workers will suffer from neck and other types of musculoskeletal
To examine if an association exists between work-family
conflict and musculoskeletal pain among hospital patient care workers,
researchers conducted a survey among 2,000 hospital workers who
provided direct patient care in 2 large Boston hospitals. Nearly 80% of the
workers took the survey. The research team included 1,199 patient care workers
in the current analysis. The team assessed work-family conflict with 5
questions. Researchers asked workers if they agreed with statements such as "The
amount of time my job takes up makes it difficult to fulfill family or personal
responsibilities" and "My job produces strain that makes it difficult
to fulfill my family or personal responsibilities."
In addition, the team used a questionnaire to assess how much the participants
in the study experienced musculoskeletal pain during the previous 3 months. It
also recorded factors that might affect the outcome of the study, such as the
amount of on-the-job lifting or pulling.
The researchers discovered that nurses and other employees who reported high
conflict between their job duties and obligations at home had about a 2 times
greater chance of suffering from neck or shoulder pain in the last 3 months.
Workers with the highest work-life imbalance had nearly a 3 times greater risk
of reporting arm pain during that period.
The researchers found that workers who reported a lot of conflict had more than
a 2 times greater chance of experiencing any kind of musculoskeletal pain. At
the same time, the research found no lasting link between this kind of ongoing
conflict and lower back pain, which might be caused when hospital workers lift
heavy patients on a regular basis.
Lead author Seung-Sup Kim says
that the work-home conflict might exacerbate shortages of
key health professionals caused when burned-out nurses or other health
professionals retire early or leave the field because of the stress. In
addition, Kim says, workers distracted by issues at home or by ongoing muscular
pain might be more likely to call in sick or if they do show up for work might
provide less than attentive care.