EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life
Job commitment in nursing profession
A 2005 study examines the commitment of nursing staff to their current employers and to their profession. The study shows that difficult working conditions correlate with reduced commitment. Young nurses, in particular, are concerned by insecure contracts, and sometimes consider giving up their job. Nonetheless, nurses were found to be strongly committed both to the organisation and to their profession.
During 2002-2005, the employment conditions and health of nurses, as well as premature exit from healthcare work, were the subject of an extensive survey in 10 European countries (European NEXT-Study). Among the study’s findings were that a considerable number of nurses will be retiring in the next few decades. At the same time, the need for care personnel will grow as more nurses will be required to provide care services for the ageing population.
Besides the reduction in older staff due to retirement, nurses aged under 30 years often think about leaving their profession due to difficult working conditions (FI0312NU02) and insecure contracts. However, according to the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (Laine, 2005), it is possible to encourage these young workers to stay on, by ensuring continuity of their employment relations and by matching their job tasks with their professional training.
The aim of the 2005 study was to investigate nurses’ commitment to the organisation and to their profession, and to examine how this corresponds to the intention to leave, as well as whether the intention to leave is a signal of actually leaving. The target group consisted of 3,626 Finnish nurses, working in different fields of health care services in different parts of the country. The surveys were carried out in 2002-2003 using four different questionnaires.
The nurses were found to be strongly committed both to the organisation and to their profession. In all, 70% of the respondents somewhat or totally agreed with the statements describing strong commitment to the organisation, while just under 6% somewhat or totally disagreed with these statements. Some 84% of the respondents somewhat or totally agreed with the statements concerning commitment to the profession, while 2% somewhat or totally disagreed with these statements. The average score for commitment to the organisation was 3.8 points on a 5-point scale, while average commitment to the profession was 4.2 points.
Correlating factors relating to commitment
Commitment was strongest among those who perceived their health, mental well-being and work ability favourably. A good socio-economic situation and a supervisory position were also associated with strong organisational commitment.
The following work-related factors correlated most strongly with reduced commitment:
- feeling that one’s work is not meaningful or important;
- few possibilities for development;
- low level of influence;
- dissatisfaction with the ways one’s own abilities were put into use;
- poor atmosphere at work;
- low quality of leadership.
Dissatisfaction with the opportunities to give patients the care they need and poor promotion prospects were also related to low organisational commitment, while dissatisfaction with physical working conditions - especially among older nurses - and a high proportion of night shifts were related to low professional commitment.
Thoughts of leaving both the organisation and the profession were most often voiced by young, temporarily hired, staff nurses, who had worked less than a year for their current employer and only a short time in their profession, as well as by those reporting experience of burnout. Registered and specialised registered nurses more often considered leaving the organisation than practical nurses, the latter of whom may have felt that they had less possibilities for re-employment.
Nurses who considered leaving the organisation most frequently thought about switching to out-patient and hospital care; the least attractive area was the health centre ward. Weak commitment was strongly associated with thoughts of leaving, and the intention to leave did actually signal leaving the organisation.
It is possible to strengthen nurses’ commitment by:
- improving the organisation of work;
- arranging the work so that nurses can use their abilities in the optimal way;
- offering good possibilities for further development;
- ensuring opportunities for continuous professional training;
- increasing possibilities to influence the work.
Special attention should be paid to the physical environment of older nurses. The risk of young nurses leaving the profession should be reduced by ensuring permanent work contracts and by defining their tasks so that they correspond to their professional training. Particular consideration should also be given to health centre wards to make them more attractive to nurses.
Laine, M., Organisational and professional commitment of nurses , Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, University of Turku, Faculty of Medicine, Occupational Health, Turku, 2005.