A computer simulation of system dynamics modeling showed that greater job control and lower job demands had the greatest impact on perceived stress among nursing home aides, NIOSH-funded investigators report in the journal BMC Health Services Research. System dynamics modeling is a method for researching complex relationships.

A computer simulation enables investigators to evaluate a system dynamics model depicting interactive relationships, in this case between worker stress and specific workplace conditions. To develop the model, investigators recruited eight volunteer participants with knowledge of work conditions in nursing homes who had participated in a previous large study of U.S. nursing home workers. Through brainstorming sessions, study participants identified work-related influences on stress. The investigators then divided these influences into related groups, which they used to program various workplace scenarios into the computer model.

Although stress decreased in scenarios with greater job control and lower job demands, the effects of workplace social support from managers and coworkers, workplace safety, and personal demands such as work-family conflict were less impactful.  Since this finding differs from those of previous studies, additional research is necessary to confirm the results of this study. Still, the study shows the benefit of system dynamics modeling in identifying the interactive causes of stress in large organizations, such as nursing homes, and pinpointing areas for intervention, according to the investigators.

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