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Personal profile

Research interests

I am an Honorary Research Fellow in the Centre for Pain Research, Department for Health, with a strong research interest in how work can contribute to our health, especially for people living with ongoing pain. My work is supported by a range of funders e.g. I am a co-investigator at the Centre for Musculoskeletal Health and Work https://www.mrc.soton.ac.uk/cmhw/ (funded by Versus Arthritis and the MRC, PI Professor Karen Walker-Bone). I shortly start research with Centre colleagues into a particular kind of early individualised support for people in pain to assist sustainable return to work. I am also co-investigator on the HOW Social Work Project (Challenge Fund, £235,000) PI Dr Jermaine Ravalier) looking at how to reduce work attrition for social workers, who may or may not have pain. Together with Professor Christopher Eccleston, Director of the Centre for Pain Research, I am editing a book on the impact of pain on occupation across the lifespan (OUP, forthcoming).

I have three main research strands. The first concerns how we can best enable sustainable working lives for people living with ongoing pain. This includes living with pain and work or occupation in its broadest sense, taking a lifespan perspective which encompasses school at one end at extending working life at the other. I’m also particularly interested in the fit note, having conducted doctoral research in this area and been involved with DWP discussion about fit note reform.

Secondly, I’m interested in developing work as a health outcome, and what “good work” is, particularly for people who live with pain but also for us all. I have researched this might be possible in the micro-interaction between doctor and patient, employer and employee (around fit notes). I am looking at whether this can be done through agencies and communities, including pharmacists, the voluntary sector, and medical workers other than GPs. I am interested in the theoretical underpinning behind these behaviour change possibilities, and intervention development, as well as the medical psychology and sociology that go alongside the lived experience of being a pain patient, doctor and employer as we negotiate the back to work system.

Thirdly, I am also researching medics’ work stress and work satisfaction. For example, the SWeAT project funded by the Association of Anaesthetists and the National Association of Academic Anaesthesia (PI Dr Alex Loosely) researched how to reduce work stress for trainee anaesthetists. We found that having no children, lower levels of exercise, higher rates of sickness absence, and higher levels of non-clinical work (in addition to caring for patients directly), all increased the likelihood of trainees experiencing these issues. This information could help to identify high risk groups, as well as helping to plan and influence the wellbeing support options which are available for UK anaesthetic trainees. Working to reduce the stress associated with non-clinical workloads should also be a priority.

Willing to supervise doctoral students

I am interested in supervising students who wish to research interactions between living with pain and work. This may be around the process of sickness certification (getting a fit note); looking at the role of occupational health professionals; looking at whether and how other primary care and even voluntary agencies can have import into return to work process; considering the meaning of work in the 21st century to people living with pain.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 1 - No Poverty
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth


Dive into the research topics where Elaine Wainwright is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
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