• absenteeism;
  • frequency of change;
  • hospital;
  • organisational change;
  • patient care;
  • sickness absence


The present study was conducted to investigate how the frequency of structural change and patient care-related change is related to employees’ long-term sickness absence.


Although a growing body of research is investigating the potentially harmful effects of organisational change on employee health, most studies have focused on single episodes of organisational change and do not differentiate among the types and frequencies of change.


National registry data were collected from 2005 and 2007. A total of 34 712 health professionals from 56 hospitals were included (76% nurses, 18% physicians and 6% other health professionals) and the data were analysed using multilevel logistic regression.


The research findings reveal a significantly higher probability of long-term sickness absence among employees who experienced more frequent structural changes (OR = 1.03; CI: 1.00–1.06; P < 0.05), but not among employees who experienced more frequent patient care-related changes.


A higher frequency of organisational change may lead to more sickness-related absence among employees, with the effect depending on the type of change.

Implications for nursing management

These findings highlight the need for managers who are contemplating or are in the process of implementing organisational change to become more aware of the potentially harmful effects of frequent organisational change on employee health.