Background: Job satisfaction is an important component of nurses' lives that can impact on patient safety, productivity and performance, quality of care, retention and turnover, commitment to the organisation and the profession. Little is known about job satisfaction in early career and how it varies for different groups of nurses. This paper investigates how the components of job satisfaction vary during early career in newly qualified UK nurses.
Methods: Nurses were sampled using a combined census and multi-stage approach (n = 3962). Data were collected by questionnaire at 6 months, 18 months and 3 years after qualification between 1998 and 2001. Scores were calculated for seven job satisfaction components and a single item that measured satisfaction with pay. Scores were compared longitudinally and between nursing speciality (general, children's, mental health) using a mixed model approach.
Results: No single pattern across time emerged. Trends varied by branch and job satisfaction component. Rank order of job satisfaction components, from high to low scores, was very similar for adult and child branch nurses and different for mental health. Nurses were least satisfied with pay and most satisfied with relationships at 6 and 18 months and with resources (adult and child) and relationships (mental health) at 3 years. Trends were typically upwards for adult branch nurses, varied for children's nurses and downwards for mental health nurses.
Conclusion: The impact of time on job satisfaction in early career is highly dependent on specialism. Different contexts, settings and organisational settings lead to varying experiences. Future research should focus on understanding the relationships between job characteristics and the components of job satisfaction rather than job satisfaction as a unitary construct. Research that further investigates the benefits of a formal one year preceptorship or probationary period is needed.