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Keywords:

  • acute sector;
  • clinical grade;
  • content analysis;
  • England;
  • internal health care market;
  • job satisfaction;
  • National Health Service Trusts;
  • nurses

The changing nature of nurses’ job satisfaction: an exploration of sources of satisfaction in the 1990s

This paper focuses on the changing nature of nurses’ job satisfaction. It compares the major sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction experienced by acute ward nurses in the English National Health Service (NHS) in the early 1990s, with sources identified in previous research. In the light of findings from a pilot study, the suitability of existing research approaches and measurement tools for portraying nurses’ contemporary work experiences is examined. The study comprised content analysis of a random sample of 130 nurses’ comments about ward organizational issues, collected as part of a national survey. Findings suggest that new measurement tools need to be developed, because new sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction emerged, directly associated with change arising out of the introduction of the NHS internal market. These include pressures associated with new roles, role conflict, lack of job security, ‘tight’ resources, using new technology, a perceived lowering of standards of patient care, coping with increased amounts of paperwork, and the experience of working in a rapidly and constantly changing environment. Findings also suggest that the nature of nurses’ job satisfaction is increasingly being shaped by their position within the organization, denoted by clinical grade, and the organizational culture of individual NHS Trusts. Ward leaders experience dissatisfaction as a result of role conflict and strain, while nurses of lower clinical grades are increasingly concerned with managerial and resource constraints on their ability to provide good quality care. Nurses’ satisfaction with management and morale were found to be significantly different between NHS Trusts. While findings may be specific to England, it is argued that they have relevance for the wider, international nursing community. This is because developing an understanding of the changing nature of nurses’ job satisfaction may help to resolve recruitment and retention problems.