Clinician experiences assessing work disability related to mental disorders

Carolyn S Dewa, Hiske Hees, Lucy Trojanowski, Aart H. Schene

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objective: Medical certification is one of the basic administrative mechanisms used by social policies aimed at income protection. The assessment of work disability is central to the income protection application. Yet, there is evidence suggesting that determining work disability related to mental disorders is challenging. Although essential to the disability application process, few studies have looked at physician and other clinician experiences with the process. However, this type of information is critical to developing processes to support providers who participate in the assessments. This purpose of this paper is to explore the experiences of physicians and other clinicians assessing public long-term work disability related to mental disorders. Methods: This is an exploratory and descriptive study using qualitative methods. Clinician input was gathered through focus groups and individual in-depth interviews. Verbatim transcripts were analyzed to identify recurrent and significant themes that arose during the focus groups and individual interviews. Results: Many of the experiences that the clinicians in this sample discussed related to the difficulty of trying to fill the roles of advocate and medical expert as well as the challenge of determining the impact of functional capacity and work ability. The findings also highlight the current gap in knowledge about the factors that affect successful functioning in general and at work in particular. Conclusions: Given the challenges created by the current state of knowledge, it may be useful to consider a category of "partial disability". In addition, the fact that work disability depends on the interaction between the experience of the mental disorder and specific job requirements and the fact that people applying for public long-term disability are not working, it might be helpful to offer a clear description and guidelines of the meaning of work ability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0119009
JournalPLoS One
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 19 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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