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Cynicism in hospital staff nurses: the effect of intention to leave and job change over time


  • Janet Mantler PhD,

    Associate Professor, Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, Carleton University, Ottawa, ON, Canada
    • Correspondence

      Janet Mantler

      Department of Psychology

      Carleton University

      1125 Colonel By Drive



      Canada K1S 5B6


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  • Judith Godin PhD,

    Postdoctoral Fellow
    1. Nursing Health Services Research Unit, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
    2. Nova Scotia Centre on Aging, Mount St Vincent University, Halifax, NS, Canada
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  • Sheila J. Cameron RN, EdD, DSc(Hon),

    Professor Emerita
    1. Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor, Windsor, ON, Canada
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  • Martha E. Horsburgh RN, PhD

    Associate Vice-President, Research
    1. Office of the Vice-President, Research, University of Saskatchewan and Saskatoon Health Region, Saskatoon, SK, Canada
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To determine whether cynicism changes over time as a function of job change for nurses with high and low intentions to leave.


Cynicism develops in reaction to organisational events including leaders' actions and can result in costly passive withdrawal behaviours.


Hospital staff nurses (n = 436) completed a survey assessing their intentions to leave the job and cynicism and then completed follow-up surveys assessing cynicism and job change 1 or 2 years later. Hierarchical linear modelling was used to examine the effect of the interaction between intention to leave, job change and time on cynicism.


Nurses who left their hospital and nurses with high initial intention to leave who changed jobs within their hospital reported declining levels of cynicism over 2 years. Cynicism increased for nurses with low intention to leave who remained at the same job and for those who experienced an internal job change despite low intention to leave.


For those who desire it, an internal job change may allow for a recalibration of cynicism and increase employee engagement.

Implications for nursing management

To attenuate cynicism, hospital leaders need to act and communicate with integrity and be cautious not to arbitrarily change the jobs of nurses with low intention to leave.