• mental health and general nurses;
  • demand-control-support model;
  • emotional exhaustion;
  • job involvement;
  • multi-sample analysis

A comparative study of work characteristics and reactions between general and mental health nurses: a multi-sample analysis

Aim of the study. The first aim of this study was to examine differences in work characteristics (autonomy, social support and workload) and work reactions (emotional exhaustion and job involvement) between general and mental health nurses. The second aim was to validate whether a specific pattern of relationships between work characteristics and reactions was the same for mental health and general nurses.

Background. Nurses are generally being considered as an above risk group regarding work stress. However, health care is a diverse sector and literature suggests important differences regarding the work of different categories of nursing, such as general and mental health nurses. In addition, little empirical evidence exists about these differences. In order to improve their work situation, more insight is needed regarding differences and similarities in the work of general and mental health nurses. The demand-control-support (DCS) model was used as a research framework. We hypothesized that autonomy, job involvement, and emotional exhaustion are higher in mental health nursing, whereas social support is expected to be lower. Next, in line with the propositions of this model and several recent studies, we hypothesized that emotional exhaustion is primarily predicted by workload and social support, whereas job involvement is primarily predicted by autonomy. In addition, we investigated whether this pattern of relationships was similar in both groups.

Design/methods. Questionnaires were distributed to nurses working in a general and a psychiatric hospital in the Netherlands. We used MANOVA and MSA (by means of LISREL) to analyse the data.

Results and conclusions. Regarding the differences in work characteristics and work reactions between mental health and general nurses, our hypotheses were confirmed, except for social support and job involvement. Autonomy and emotional exhaustion were higher among mental health nurses, whereas their job involvement proved to be significantly lower. Emotional exhaustion was primarily predicted by workload and lack of social support. Contrary to our expectations, the relationship between autonomy and job involvement was not significant in both samples. Finally, we found that the proposed pattern of relationships appeared to be invariant across the two samples.