A reciprocal relationship often exists between job satisfaction and performance: The more satisfied you are with your job, the better you perform. Meanwhile, as performance rises, so does job satisfaction. Therefore, understanding satisfaction is an important part of maximizing engagement and performance while minimizing dissatisfaction, burnout, and turnover. We can think of no sector where acknowledging this phenomenon is more important than the nursing profession.
All of which begs the question: What factors most impact job satisfaction for nurses? Here’s a closer look at the issue, including a roundup of key factors supporting nursing job satisfaction.
An Early Theory on Job Satisfaction
Several studies have looked into the issue of employee satisfaction in healthcare. One of the earliest examples? Motivation theory pioneer Frederick Herzberg’s work in the late 1950s, which asked healthcare workers to consider times when they felt best and worst about their jobs. Based on their responses, Herzberg developed the theory that there are two dimensions of job satisfaction: “hygiene” and “motivators.”
According to Herzberg, job satisfaction doesn’t directly derive from hygiene issues. So why do they matter? Because they are essential to creating work environments which are conducive to satisfaction among the employees who work there. Herzberg categorized the following workplace attributes under the heading of hygiene:
- Clear and reasonable company and administrative policies
- Positive and fair supervision
- Adequate compensation across salaries, raises and bonuses
- Interpersonal relations, including a sense of camaraderie and teamwork
- Comfortable working environments
Only when these factors are in place, insists Herzberg, do motivators — which do directly facilitate satisfaction — enter the picture. These include:
- Meaningful work with plenty of opportunities to contribute
- A feeling of achievement facilitated by clear goals and standards
- Recognition of achievements
- Responsibility, freedom, and ownership over work
- Advancement opportunities
Conclude authors J. Michael Syptak, MD, David W. Marsland, MD, and Deborah Ulmer, PhD of Herzberg’s research in their article “Job Satisfaction: Putting Theory into Practice “, which appeared in the journal, Family Practice Management, “While there is no one right way to manage people, all of whom have different needs, backgrounds and expectations, Herzberg’s theory offers a reasonable starting point. By creating an environment that promotes job satisfaction, you are developing employees who are motivated, productive and fulfilled. This, in turn, will contribute to higher quality patient care and patient satisfaction.”
While Herzberg’s research is useful to employers, it’s useful to healthcare workers, too. When considering your nursing employment options, considering both hygiene issues and motivators can help you find the opportunities that will best support satisfaction.
You may be asking yourself how Herzberg’s theory holds up in the real world more than half a century later? Very well, according to the results of Medscape’s recently released annual investigation into satisfaction in the nursing profession. A survey of more than 10,500 LPNs, RNs and APRNs from throughout the United States, the Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report 2017 offers additional insights into job satisfaction for nurses today.
For starters, Medscape’s findings reveal that 21st-century nurses view making a difference by helping people as the most rewarding aspect of the work they do. Doing jobs they like and being good at what they do claim the second and third place spots, respectively, followed by patient relationships, pride in their jobs and care, relationships with coworkers and being part of a team, and the opportunity to work in a variety of settings.
It’s hardly a surprise that patient relationships and pride in their work made the list. After all, nurses are the perennial top finisher on Gallup’s annual ranking of the most honest, ethical professions. Certainly, a commitment to withholding this sterling reputation is part of what drives their efforts while simultaneously fueling satisfaction.
The survey also highlights the rise of work-life balance as a factor in satisfaction. Clearly, flexible work hours are a big part of it. However, it’s also about more than that. “What respondents are also indirectly praising is the diversity of the nursing profession, allowing them to spend all or part of their careers still as nurses but in positions that are conducive to their lives outside of the work setting. No longer do nurses want to spend 40 years working 12-hour shifts, nights, and weekends on a busy inpatient unit,” says the Medscape report.
But What About Money?
You may have noticed that one thing was conspicuously missing from the list of things nurses find satisfying about their jobs: Money. In fact, “the amount of money I am paid” landed on Medscape’s list of the least satisfying aspects of the job, alongside administration/workplace policies, excessive documentation, lack of respect from coworkers, high patient loads and lack of time to spend with patients, and the emphasis on patient satisfaction as the top priority.
So, while money absolutely matters to a degree, it is far from the end-all-be-all when it comes to nursing job satisfaction — especially when you consider that the highest paying nursing jobs are not always the jobs with the highest job satisfaction. Rather, it’s all about balance.
It’s also interesting to note that between four and nine percent of nurses identified “nothing” as a least satisfying job aspect. In other words, a decent number of respondents couldn’t come up with one thing they found dissatisfying about the profession.
One last thing part of the Medscape report worth keeping in mind? While nursing — like all professions — has its challenges, 95 percent of the nurses surveyed answered “yes” to the question, “Are you glad to be a nurse?” The takeaway? The satisfaction they find in the invaluable work they do far outweigh any downsides of the profession for the vast majority of nurses.