An exploratory study about meaningful work in acute care nursing

Nurs Forum. Apr-Jun 2012;47(2):113-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-6198.2012.00261.x.

Abstract

Objective: To develop deeper understandings about nurses' perceptions of meaningful work and the contextual factors that impact finding meaning in work.

Background: Much has been written about nurses' job satisfaction and the impact on quality of health care. However, scant qualitative evidence exists regarding nurses' perceptions of meaningful work and how factors in the work environment influence their perceptions. The literature reveals links among work satisfaction, retention, quality of care, and meaningfulness in work.

Methods: Using a narrative design, researchers interviewed 13 public health nurses and 13 acute care nurses. Categorical-content analysis with Atlas.ti data management software was conducted separately for each group of nurses. This article reports results for acute care nurses.

Results: Twenty-four stories of meaningful moments were analyzed and categorized. Three primary themes of meaningful work emerged: connections, contributions, and recognition. Participants described learning-focused environment, teamwork, constructive management, and time with patients as facilitators of meaningfulness and task-focused environment, stressful relationships, and divisive management as barriers. Meaningful nursing roles were advocate, catalyst and guide, and caring presence.

Conclusions: Nurse administrators are the key to improving quality of care by nurturing opportunities for nurses to find meaning and satisfaction in their work. Study findings provide nurse leaders with new avenues for improving work environments and job satisfaction to potentially enhance healthcare outcomes.

MeSH terms

  • Anecdotes as Topic
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Career Choice
  • Critical Care*
  • Evidence-Based Nursing
  • Humans
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Nursing Care / psychology*
  • Public Health Nursing*
  • Workflow