• healthy workplace;
  • participatory organizational intervention;
  • Registered Nurses;
  • health care workers

Aim.  This paper reports a pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of a participatory organizational intervention to improve the psychosocial work environment in one long-term care unit.

Background.  Since the early 1990s, health care institutions in Quebec have been constantly changing in order to improve the efficiency of the health care system. These changes have affected the work environment and have contributed to higher rates of burnout and absenteeism among nurses and other health care workers.

Method.  The study participants were health care workers in a long-term care unit (n = 60). The participatory organizational intervention was based on a contract and carried out by a work team. Work constraints were identified, and an action plan implemented, The effectiveness of the intervention was evaluated by pre- and postintervention questionnaires: the Job Content Questionnaire, Effort–Reward Imbalance Questionnaire and Psychiatric Symptom Index.

Results.  There was a significant increase in reward (P ≤ 0·01) and a significant decrease in Effort–Reward Imbalance (P ≤ 0·01) following the intervention. Absenteeism rates decreased from 8·26% to 1·86% over the study period, but in the rest of the institution remained the same. However, there was a significant decrease in social support from supervisors (P < 0·05) at post-test.

Conclusion.  Participation by health care workers and action plans targeting problematic aspects of the psychosocial work environment are key elements in interventions to improve their health. However, such interventions present challenges, such as the involvement of managers, involvement of all relevant participants, and re-establishment of trust within work teams. Recognition and respect must be re-established, and supervisors must engage with health care workers and give support at all stages of the intervention.