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Sense of coherence among unemployed nurses


  • Katja Leino-Loison MNSc RN,

  • Lan T. Gien BSc MEd PhD,

  • Jouko Katajisto MSc,

  • Maritta Välimäki PhD RN

Maritta Välimäki, Department of Nursing Science, University of Tampere, Medisiinarinkatu 3, 33014 Finland.


Aims.  This paper reports a study assessing Finnish unemployed nurses’ sense of coherence and the factors relating to it.

Background.  During the 1990s, due to the widespread economic downturn in Finland, the nursing profession suffered from a high level of unemployment. Previous research has clearly indicated that unemployment is detrimental to health. It creates stress by disturbing a person's sense of identity and self-esteem and by disrupting social networks. In Finland, many studies have been conducted on the impact of unemployment, but have not examined the sense of coherence of unemployed nurses.

Methods.  Data were collected in one Employment and Economic Development Centre area in Finland in 1998. Structured questionnaires were used to collect data among Finnish unemployed nurses (n = 183), and included the General Health Questionnaire, measuring nurses’ mental health; socio-demographic questions; and the 13-item version of the Sense of Coherence scale based on Antonovsky's salutogenic model to measure sense of coherence.

Results.  Although the majority of unemployed nurses had a strong sense of coherence, many felt that during their period of unemployed they did not feel at ease, did not know what to do and had a sense of being unfairly treated. Daily household chores, on the whole, were perceived as meaningful. Income and the state of mental health were positively correlated with nurses’ sense of coherence: the better the family income and state of mental health, the stronger was their sense of coherence. Because of the low response rate (less than 50%), the results might be skewed by those whose higher sense of coherence made them more motivated to complete the questionnaires.

Conclusions.  Many of the nurses reported low sense of coherence and poor general health. Special interventions should be designed to improve their sense of coherence and high motivation level, and to maintain their professional competence when they return to work. This kind of support may prevent further out-migration and nursing shortages from Finland and other industrialized countries.