Interrelationships among workload, illness severity, and function on return to work following acute respiratory distress syndrome

Han Su, Hilaire J. Thompson, Kenneth Pike, Biren B. Kamdar, Elizabeth Bridges, Megan M. Hosey, Catherine L. Hough, Dale M. Needham, Ramona O. Hopkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Inability to return to work (RTW) is common after acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Objectives: The aim of this study is to examine interrelationships among pre-ARDS workload, illness severity, and post-ARDS cognitive, psychological, interpersonal, and physical function with RTW at 6 and 12 months after ARDS. Methods: We conducted a secondary analysis using the US multicentre ARDS Network Long-Term Outcomes Study. The US Occupational Information Network was used to determine pre-ARDS workload. The Mini-Mental State Examination and SF-36 were used to measure four domains of post-ARDS function. Analyses used structural equation modeling and mediation analyses. Results: Among 329 previously employed ARDS survivors, 6- and 12-month RTW rates were 52% and 56%, respectively. Illness severity (standardised coefficients range: −0.51 to −0.54, p < 0.001) had a negative effect on RTW at 6 months, whereas function at 6 months (psychological [0.42, p < 0.001], interpersonal [0.40, p < 0.001], and physical [0.43, p < 0.001]) had a positive effect. Working at 6 months (0.79 to 0.72, P < 0.001) had a positive effect on RTW at 12 months, whereas illness severity (−0.32 to −0.33, p = 0.001) and post-ARDS function (psychological [6 months: 0.44, p < 0.001; 12 months: 0.33, p = 0.002], interpersonal [0.44, p < 0.001; 0.22, p = 0.03], and physical abilities [0.47, p < 0.001; 0.33, p = 0.007]) only had an indirect effect on RTW at 12 months mediated through work at 6 months. Conclusions: RTW at 12 months was associated with patients' illness severity; post-ARDS cognitive, psychological, interpersonal, and physical function; and working at 6 months. Among these factors, working at 6 months and function may be modifiable mediators of 12-month post-ARDS RTW. Improving ARDS survivors' RTW may include optimisation of workload after RTW, along with interventions across the healthcare spectrum to improve patients’ physical, psychological, and interpersonal function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)247-253
Number of pages7
JournalAustralian Critical Care
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • ARDS
  • Employment
  • Impairment
  • Intensive care unit
  • Job characteristics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency
  • Critical Care


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