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Nursing morale: what is it like and why?


Margaret Callaghan,
MRC Social and Public Health Sciences Unit,
University of Glasgow,
4 Lilybank Gardens,
Glasgow G12 8RZ,


Background. There has been increased concern in the United Kingdom about the problems of recruitment and retention in the nursing profession, and how this is influenced by low morale. Despite this, however, there are relatively few studies, particularly of a qualitative nature, where nurses are asked about their morale and what factors affect it.

Aims. The present study aimed to explore nursing morale and determine the factors which nurses believed to influence it. By doing so, it was hoped that factors which affect nurse recruitment and retention could be identified.

Methods. Fifty-eight nurses (28 males, 30 females) working in the National Health Service in Scotland were interviewed in depth about their morale and their concerns about their career. Thematic analysis was carried out and a number of main issues emerged.

Findings. Morale in this group was very low. A large number of nurses were considering leaving the profession and the majority would discourage others from becoming a nurse. The themes that emerged, which related to their disillusionment, included low pay, lack of support for education, limited opportunity for promotion, lack of resources and job insecurity.

Conclusions. The findings suggest that while recent salary increases may have helped to improve morale, other factors must also be addressed if further decline in morale and a subsequent nursing shortage is to be avoided.