Nurses who are motivated primarily by the desire to help others, rather than by enjoyment of the work itself or the lifestyle it makes possible, are more likely to burn out on the job, University of Akron researchers say.
Nursing is still a female-dominated occupation, and being female is associated with being caring, nurturing, and altrustic. Therefore, the desire to help others is often assumed to be the “right” motivation for entering the field, the researchers say.
However, they found that nurses who pursue their career for reasons other than or in addition to the desire to help others find the job to be less stressful. That results in less burnout, better personal health, and high job commitment.
Study authors, Janette Dill, an assistant professor of sociology, Rebecca Erickson, a professor of sociology, and James Diefendorff, an associate professor of psychology, all at the University of Akron, based their findings on survey data from more than 700 registered nurses in Northeast Ohio. About 90 percent were white females.
Dill will present the paper at the 109th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.
According to Dill, those being served by workers in most occupations do not really care about the worker’s motivation for choosing that career. After all, as long as your car gets fixed properly, it doesn’t much matter whether the mechanic loves cars, only cares about making money, or simply enjoys using power tools.
However, Dill says health care is different. “We expect women to go into these jobs because they love the people that they’re caring for, and this is their primary motivator.”
If that cultural assumption can be changed, she says, more men might be attracted to nursing and “might not necessarily feel that their whole self has to be devoted to their patients — that they can value their job for other reasons as well.”
The researchers also found that nurses who are highly motivated by both the lifestyle the job provides and the ability to interact personally with patients are more satisfied with their employer and less inclined to leave their current job.
The study did not attempt to measure how well nurses with different motivations and care approaches performed their jobs. The authors suggest those relationships be explored in a future study of a broader sample of nurses.
About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (www.asanet.org), founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.
The paper, “Motivation and Care Dimensions in Caring Labor: Implications for Nurses’ Well-Being and Employment Outcomes,” was presented on Aug. 19 in San Francisco at the American Sociological Association’s 109th Annual Meeting.
To obtain a copy of the paper; for assistance reaching the study’s author(s); or for more information on other ASA presentations, members of the media can contact Daniel Fowler, ASA Media Relations Manager, at (202) 527-7885 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This press release was written by Roger Mezger, University of Akron. For more information about the study, members of the media can also contact Eileen Korey, Chief Communications Officer, Associate Vice President, University of Akron, at (330) 972-8589 or email@example.com.
Papers presented at the ASA Annual Meeting are typically working papers that have not yet been published in peer reviewed journals.