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Keywords:

  • nurses;
  • nursing students;
  • personality;
  • qualitative research;
  • recruitment;
  • retention

eley d., eley r., bertello m. & rogers-clark c. (2012) Why did I become a nurse? Personality traits and reasons for entering nursing. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(7), 1546–1555.

Abstract

Aims.  This article is a report of a mixed method study of the association between personality traits of nurses and their reasons for entering nursing.

Background.  The worldwide nursing shortage prompts research into better understanding of why individuals enter nursing and may assist in exploring ways to increase their recruitment and long term retention.

Design.  A mixed method sequential explanatory design employed semi-structured interviews and a validated personality inventory measuring temperament and character traits.

Methods.  Registered Nurses (n = 12) and nursing students (n = 11) working and studying in a regional area of Queensland Australia were purposively sampled for the interviews in 2010 from their participation in the survey in 2009 investigating their personality traits. Qualitative data collection stopped at saturation. A thematic content analysis of the qualitative data using the framework approach was interpreted alongside their personality trait profiles.

Results.  Two dominant themes were identified from the participant interviews about reasons for entering nursing; ‘opportunity for caring’ and ‘my vocation in life’. These themes were congruent with key temperament and character traits measured in the participants. All nurses and students were very high in traits that exude empathy and altruistic ideals regardless of other characteristics which included highly pragmatic and self-serving principles.

Conclusions.  Qualitative and quantitative findings suggest that a caring nature is a principal quality of the nursing personality. Recruitment and retention strategies whilst promoting multiple benefits for the profession should not forget that the prime impetus for entering nursing is the opportunity to care for others.