Jun 08, 2017

What Motivates Nurses and Carers to Work

Nurses and carers give so much to those in need. And they don’t simply do it because it’s their job, there is often a great passion to help people is what drives them. They work tirelessly to make sure our loved ones are receiving the care they need.

For most people, when they picture a nurse they image a maternal figure who have an innate desire to look after others. Nurses and carers uphold this image of being nurturing and altruistically motivated individuals.  

Motivation can be defined as the processes that account for a person’s intensity, direction and persistence of effort toward attaining a goal. If that is the case, then what motivates nurses and carers to do what they do?

In most other careers, people are significantly driven by an extrinsic motivation, that is, the drive to do the work because of wages, benefits, or the opportunity for promotion.

However, this is not the sole case with people who work in the “care” industry. Especially when considering how little some nurses and carers’ wages can be.

When looking at what motivates care workers, it often came down to two themes – the desire to help others and a desire to retire securely, however there were also other unique motivations.

Some responses that people gave included things like “personal satisfaction of a job done well” and “knowing the huge difference really good nursing care can make”.

One person gave a brutally frank response: “the paycheck is the only thing that motivates me. Probably not a answer with all the social do-gooders, but it is the honest answer.”

One nurse said that her motivation came from a place of fear, “fear of losing my good reputation with my peers, fear of harming the patient”. However the same nurse also attributed her drive to “the joy of seeing a patient improve” and “the ability to sleep at night with a clean conscience”

One research looked at the motivations among medical and nursing staff in a Cyprus public general hospital.

What this research found was the the highest motivator for their nursing staff was “achievement”. Which this entailed was anything from intrinsic motivators such as pride, appreciation, respect and social acceptance.

Within the same nurses group, there was a stronger motivation by “remuneration” aspects, that being wages and income, by those who had fewer years in service and were newer to the field.

Intrinsic motivators, such as work meaningfulness, strong interpersonal relationships, respect, have been shown to have a positive effect on service quality, implying that the hospital’s administration could start its effort to motivate their staff.

Overall, that particular research found that nurses overall showed higher satisfaction from their work compared to doctors.

Another research that was presented at the American Sociological Association found that nurses, specifically, have a high pro-social motivation and are more likely to report burnout or emotional exhaustion.

There are even cases of compassion fatigue where nurses, and this can apply to carers too, where they are emotionally drained, which can lead to them dreading having to face another work day.

For these groups of people, it seems that they are more motivated by intrinsic rewards. They find enjoyment and interest in the work, while also having social motivation to do good for others.

Whatever the reason, nurses and carers work hard everyday for the betterment of other people. Whether that motivation comes from a desire to help others or to simply earn a comfortable living, it is admirable that they keep doing the work they do.

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