9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN19 Sociology of Professions

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Professionalism and the Reframing of Institutions: New Ties and old Tensions Building I, Auditório 2

'Making a Difference': A comparative study of UK nurses' work orientation, motivation and commitment


A shortage of nurses has been reported globally (Lynn and Redman 2005) and in developed countries in particular (Aiken et al 2004). The situation in the UK is no different, with the NHS and care homes continuing to struggle with high staff turnover rates and low morale evidenced by difficulties with nurse recruitment and retention (Finlayson et al 2002). This raises concern within the nursing profession and the UK government as to whether the current number of trained nurses will be adequate for the future needs of the NHS and other health and social care providers, especially given the ageing population of the UK (Shields and Ward 2001).

This research study used in depth, qualitative interviews to explore with 50 qualified women nurses (38-56 years) why they chose to stay in nursing and to investigate their future career intentions. The study contrasts 25 nurses working in the UK NHS and 25 nurses working in the UK care home sector (in nursing and residential homes), focusing on the concepts of work orientation, commitment and motivation, work-life balance and the structural opportunities and constraints within their work organizations.

The results of the study indicate that nurses? motivations to stay are complex, yet one crucial element is that these nurses still have a passion for nursing and that this passion can be conceptualized as nursing ?vocation? in the 21st century. The results are framed in terms of the applicability of work orientation, motivation, commitment and Becker?s (1960) ?side bet? theoretical model (the option of leaving the occupation is perceived as too costly), for example, economic ties such as pension accumulation or social costs in the form of friendship bonds with colleagues outweigh the option of leaving the job or career.

Whilst the results are particular to nurses working in the South East of England, this study may have policy implications for policy makers - nurse employers, the UK and other European governments, who are seeking ways to retain qualified, experienced nurses.