Development of a new measure of work-ability for injured workers

Fadyl, Joanna K.
McPherson, Kathryn M.
Schluter, Philip J.
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Master of Health Science
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Auckland University of Technology

Background: Work-ability is often assessed as part of the vocational rehabilitation process for injured workers. However, research highlights a concern among therapists who carry out vocational assessments that there is a lack of consistency with regard to quality and comprehensiveness using current methods of assessment. One of the reasons for this is that there are no standardized measures of work-ability available that are designed to be used for the purpose of facilitating rehabilitation. The Participation And Work-ability Support Scale (PAWSS) is a new measure, conceptualized and initially developed by Professors Lynne Turner-Stokes and Kathryn McPherson, that was designed to address this gap. Design and Methods: This research was designed to develop the PAWSS measure to the point where it had face validity, and was complete enough to be formally psychometrically tested. The design of the research involved three parts. Firstly, a comprehensive review of the literature was undertaken. This was done to identify all the aspects of work functioning that are considered to contribute to work-ability, and then consider currently available work-ability measures in relation to their suitability for assessing vocational support needs. Secondly, in phase one of the research, qualitative focus groups and interviews with stakeholders in the return-to-work process were undertaken. The purpose of this phase was to check the content of the measure against stakeholder experiences, and determine the most appropriate administration context and procedures. Interviews and focus groups were analysed using descriptive analysis, and findings were used to inform revisions to the measure. Finally, phase two of the research involved pilot testing the measure. This was carried out by contracting experienced occupational therapists to test the new measure with consenting workplace assessment clients. Feedback from assessors and injured workers, assessor testing notes and scoring were analysed to examine feasibility and acceptability of the PAWSS, and revisions to the measure were made in accordance with findings.Results: The qualitative interviews and focus groups (phase one) provided feedback and comments that informed adaptations to the measure to bring it more in line with stakeholders’ experiences of work-ability. Furthermore, this phase provided information about the context in which the measure should be administered, and this was adopted for the pilot testing. Pilot testing of the measure (phase two) showed that the measure was acceptable to both the assessors and the injured workers, and that it was feasible to administer as part of a workplace assessment. Revisions to the measure and training procedures at this stage were primarily made to enhance clarity of item descriptions and scoring decisions. Conclusions and implications for practice: Findings from the research confirmed the need for a standardized measure of work-ability that can be used to plan vocational supports and interventions. Furthermore, the PAWSS was shown to be feasible and acceptable as a comprehensive tool for assessment of the work-ability of injured workers. Further research is needed to test the reliability and validity of the PAWSS before it can be used in practice.

Work injuries , Work disability , Work incapacity , Vocational rehabilitation , Measure development
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