Background Seven million working days are lost each year in Ireland due to RMDs, such as back & neck pain or stiffness, arthritis, and limb pain. This is therefore a significant problem which obviously impacts on both employers, employees and healthcare professionals. That is why Arthritis Ireland has developed Fit for Work Online - an eLearning programme which focuses on the issues that face these three groups.
Objectives The objective of the project was to develop an online educational programme to provide information, guidance and support to employees, employers and healthcare professionals on working with RMDs.
Methods In 2015 Arthritis Ireland began its developments of an online education programme “Fit for Work Online” which focuses on the tripartite relationship between the employee, employer and healthcare professional.
3 video lessons were developed as part of this eLearning programme.
The first lesson is aimed at employees who are living with an RMD
The second lesson is aimed at employers who have a staff member who is living with an RMD (and finally)
The third has been developed for health professionals to update them on current guidance around RMDs and ongoing employment
A key message in all 3 videos is that working is good for your health.
Since employment has been shown to boost health and happiness, it is crucial, whenever possible, that people who are living with an RMD, remain in employment, or return to work, as soon as they can. That is the central message of this eLearning programme.
A number of issues were addressed in the development of this programme in order to convey these important issues:
Firstly, employees who are living with an RMD are encouraged to take control of their condition. People living with an RMD are encouraged to consider practical steps and issues which would support them in staying in, or returning to, work.
Secondly, from an employer's perspective, in addition to concerns about the welfare of their employees, there are other issues to consider, and it is natural for instance to be concerned about the possible impact of any health condition on their employees' performance & reliability, and consequently on their business. Adaptations, supports, flexibility and so on need to be considered.
Finally, health professionals need to encourage, advise and facilitate people who are living with RMDs to remain in, or return to work.
Results The Fit for Work Online programme will go live in February 2015. It is planned that a report on the first four months of the programme's delivery and implementation will be available at EULAR 2017 in Madrid.
Conclusions The direct cost of RMDs at work in Ireland is estimated to be at least €750 million a year. Ensuring that people who have been recently diagnosed with an RMD (or who have been living with one for a long time), have the opportunity to remain in or return to work, is central to the ideas behind Fit-for-Work. Everyone has a role to play to make this happen, and everyone needs to be flexible & realistic, because in the end of the day, everyone stands to benefit.
Disclosure of Interest None declared