The relationship between task mastery, role clarity, social acceptance, and stress: An intensive longitudinal study with a sample of newly registered nurses

Int J Nurs Stud. 2019 Mar:91:60-69. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2018.10.007. Epub 2019 Jan 3.


Background: Transitioning into a new professional role is challenging. Unfortunately, little is currently known about how to reduce experiences of stress among new professionals. The socialization processes role clarity, task mastery, and social acceptance are assumed to reduce experiences of stress as they mediate new professionals' acquisition of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors. However, little prospective data is available on the actual effect of the processes on stress.

Objectives: To prospectively investigate how the socialization processes relate to experiences of stress among new nurses during the first three months of professional working life. Specifically, to investigate development over time, as well as how episodes of increased or decreased levels of the socialization processes relate to concurrent levels of stress. The general purpose of this investigation was to examine the suitability of the socialization processes as targets of an intervention seeking to reduce stress among new professionals.

Design: An intensive longitudinal study with weekly data collections over three months.

Participants: 264 newly graduated Swedish nurses who started their first job during the period of the study.

Methods: The participants were followed prospectively during 14 consecutive weeks after their professional entry. Data on stress (Stress and Energy Questionnaire), role clarity (General Questionnaire for Psychological and Social Factors at Work), task mastery, and social acceptance (Needs Satisfaction and Frustration Scale) were collected weekly using digital surveys (mean response rate 82.7%). Data was analyzed using a multilevel model for intensive longitudinal data.

Results: For the typical nurse, stress decreased by 0.13 units per month, role clarity and task mastery increased by 0.08 and 0.05 units, and social acceptance decreased by 0.08 units. In addition, the slopes of 95 percent of the new nurses varied within 1.18 (stress), 0.72 (role clarity), 0.44 (task mastery), and 0.86 (social acceptance) units of the typical nurse. Most importantly, when the new nurses experienced higher levels of task mastery, role clarity, and social acceptance, they experienced lower levels of stress (within-person parameter estimates: task mastery -0.40, p = .001; role clarity -0.34, p = .001; and social acceptance -0.33, p = .001).

Conclusions: Supporting the development of the socialization processes could be one theoretically based strategy to reduce levels of stress among new nurses. As stress among new professionals is not unique to the nursing profession, and the processes are considered important mediators of new professionals' adaptation in general, the results from this study should likely be generalizable to other professions.

Keywords: Adjustment; Burnout; Intensive longitudinal design; Intervention; New professionals; Nurses; Prospective; Stress; Transition.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Staff / psychology*
  • Professional Role*
  • Psychological Distance*
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Sweden
  • Task Performance and Analysis*