Published: 29-09-2022 08:11 | Updated: 29-09-2022 12:11

New thesis on return to work for patients who have undergone allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplantation

Hi Linda Eriksson, PhD student at the Division of Nursing, NVS. On June 3 you will defend your thesis "Let's work it out : aspects of the occupational situation of survivors of allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplantation", what's the main focus of the thesis?

Linda Eriksson, PhD student at the Division of Nursing, NVS. Photo: Private.

The main focus of my thesis is return to work for patients who have undergone allogeneic haematopoietic stem cell transplantation. These patients often suffer from many side effects and late effects and face a long recovery period that can affect their whole life situation, including work. We have investigated what affects their sick leave and return to work with the use of questionnaires and interviews during the first six years after transplantation.

Which are the most important results? 

We found that 76% of the participants were on sick leave one year after treatment, out of whom 39% were on full-time sick leave. We also found that side effects such as a high symptom burden and chronic GvHD, where the new immune system’s white blood cells, that are produced by the transplanted stem cells, perceives the patient’s body as foreign and attacks it (the transplant attempts to reject the body), increased the risk of sick leave in addition to low physical activity and depression. Two years after transplantation, 60% had returned to work >50% and again, chronic GvHD affected return to work negatively whereas a higher educational level had a positive effect on return to work. Surprisingly, work-related factors, such as flexible working hours and the possibility to work from home, showed no associations with return to work in statistical analyses. However, work-related factors appeared to be an important factor for return to work on an individual basis as many participants described in interviews that they would not have been able to return to work without the possibility of working from home and the ability to influence their working hours.

How can this new knowledge contribute to the improvement of people’s health? 

The results in this thesis contribute to an increased knowledge and deeper understanding regarding return to work for these patients as there are very few previous studies within this field. Work is an important part of life that contributes to a feeling of inclusion, financial freedom and better opportunities to form one’s life. With the help of the knowledge of what can affect these patients’ occupational situation, both the health care system and employers will be able to better support and help the patient to achieve an improved return to work, and thus an increased quality of life.

What´s in the future for you? Will you keep on conducting research? 

Yes, fortunately I will continue conducting research part time. My research in the future will continue to focus on this patient group, but not on their occupational situation. Instead, I will be conducting research on methods for increased person-centered support and its effect on quality of life for both patients and their next of kin.