The intention to continue nursing: work variables affecting three nurse generations in Australia


  • Kate Shacklock,

    1. Kate Shacklock B.Ec, PhD Senior Lecturer Department of Employment Relations and Human Resources, Griffith University, Southport, Queensland, Australia
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  • Yvonne Brunetto

    1. Yvonne Brunetto BA, DipED, PhD Associate Professor School of Commerce and Management, Southern Cross University, Tweed Heads, New South Wales, Australia
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K. Shacklock: e-mail:


shacklock k. & brunetto y. (2012) The intention to continue nursing: work variables affecting three nurse generations in Australia. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(1), 36–46.


Aims.  The aims of the study were to examine how seven variables impacted upon the intention of hospital nurses to continue working as nurses and to investigate whether there are generational differences in these impacts.

Background.  There is a critical shortage of trained nurses working as nurses in Australia, as in many other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development member countries. The retention of nurses has been examined from the traditional management perspectives; however, this paper presents a different approach (Meaning of Working theory).

Methods.  A self-report survey of 900 nurses employed across four states of Australia was completed in 2008. The sample was hospital nurses in Australia from three generational cohorts – Baby Boomers (born in Australia between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (1965–1979) and Generation Y (1980–2000).

Results.  Six variables were found to influence the combined nurses’ intentions to continue working as nurses: work–family conflict, perceptions of autonomy, attachment to work, importance of working to the individual, supervisor–subordinate relationship and interpersonal relationships at work. There were differences in the variables affecting the three generations, but attachment to work was the only common variable across all generations, affecting GenYs the strongest.

Conclusion.  The shortage of nurses is conceptualized differently in this paper to assist in finding solutions. However, the results varied for the three generations, suggesting the need to tailor different retention strategies to each age group. Implications for management and policy planning are discussed.