Trends in job satisfaction among German nurses from 1990 to 2012

J Health Serv Res Policy. 2016 Apr;21(2):101-8. doi: 10.1177/1355819615614045. Epub 2015 Nov 24.


Objective: Improving the job satisfaction of nurses is essential to enhance their productivity and retention and to improve patient care. Our aim was to analyse trends in German nurses' job satisfaction to enhance understanding of the nursing labour market and inform future policies.

Methods: We used 1990-2012 German Socioeconomic Panel data for trends in nurses' job satisfaction. Comparisons were drawn with doctors, other health care workers, and employees in other sectors of employment. Analysis explored associations between job satisfaction trends and other aspects of employment, such as whether full time or part time and pay. To account for fluctuations across the period of analysis, linear trends were generated using ordinary least squares.

Results: Over 23 years, job satisfaction of German nurses underwent a steady and gradual decline, dropping by an average 7.5%, whereas that of doctors and other health care workers increased by 14.4% and 1%, respectively. The decline for part-time nurses (13%) was more pronounced than that for full-time nurses (3%). At the same time, nurses' pay rose by only 3.8% compared to a 23.8% increase for doctors.

Conclusions: The steady decline in nurses' job satisfaction over the last two decades may be attributable to the multiple reforms and associated policy changes that generally disadvantaged nurses. Contributing factors to job satisfaction decline include lower pay and the demanding and strenuous work environment. Irrespective of the reason, health services researchers, leaders, and policy makers should investigate the reasons for this decline given the forecast growth in work load and complexity of care. Supportive policies for nurses would help enhance the quality and sustainability of German health care.

Keywords: Germany; job satisfaction; nurses; policy; work environment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Health Personnel / trends
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Job Satisfaction*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurses / trends*
  • Sex Factors
  • Workplace / psychology*