We sought to better use qualitative approaches in occupational health research and integrate them with quantitative methods.
We systematically reviewed, selected, and adapted qualitative research methods as part of a multisite study of the predictors and outcomes of work-related musculoskeletal disorders among hospital workers in two large urban tertiary hospitals.
The methods selected included participant observation; informal, open-ended, and semistructured interviews with individuals or small groups; and archival study. The nature of the work and social life of the hospitals and the foci of the study all favored using more participant observation methods in the case study than initially anticipated.
Exploiting the full methodological spectrum of qualitative methods in occupational health is increasingly relevant. Although labor-intensive, these approaches may increase the yield of established quantitative approaches otherwise used in isolation.