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Integrating Qualitative Research into Occupational Health: A Case Study Among Hospital Workers

Gordon, Deborah R. PhD; Ames, Genevieve M. PhD; Yen, Irene H. PhD, MPH; Gillen, Marion PhD, MPH, RN; Aust, Birgit DrPH, Dipl-Soz; Rugulies, Reiner PhD, MPH, Dipl-Psych; Frank, John W. MD, MSc; Blanc, Paul D. MD, MSPH

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: April 2005 - Volume 47 - Issue 4 - p 399-409
doi: 10.1097/01.jom.0000158702.67246.49
Original Articles

Objective: We sought to better use qualitative approaches in occupational health research and integrate them with quantitative methods.

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.

Results: 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.

Conclusions: 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.

From the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, University of California San Francisco (Dr Gordon); Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley and the Prevention Research Center, Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Berkeley, California (Dr Ames); Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of California San Francisco (Drs Yen and Blanc); Department of Community Health Systems, School of Nursing, University of California, San Francisco (Dr Gillen); National Institute of Occupational Health, Copenhagen, Denmark (Drs Aust and Rugulies); and Institute of Population and Public Health, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Toronto, and the Department of Public Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Canada (Dr Frank).

Address correspondence to: Dr Paul Blanc, Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Department of Medicine, UCSF, 350 Parnassus Street, Suite 609, San Francisco, CA 94143; E-mail:

©2005The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine