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Desire to help others drives burn out risk in nurses

Nurses motivated primarily by the desire to help others, rather than by enjoyment of the work itself, are more likely to burn out on the job, according to US researchers.

A desire to help others is often assumed to be the “right” motivation for entering the nursing profession, said the researchers from the University of Akron.

However, they found that nurses who pursued their career for reasons other than or in addition to the desire to help others find the job to be less stressful and, therefore, had less burnout, better personal health, and high job commitment.

The researchers based their findings on survey data from more than 700 registered nurses in Northeast Ohio, of which about 90% were white females.

Study author Janette Dill, an assistant professor of sociology, presented the findings last week at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco.

She said healthcare was different to most occupations in that staff were often expected care about their job more than others and view it as a vocation.

University of Akron

Janette Dill

“We expect women to go into these jobs because they love the people that they’re caring for, and this is their primary motivator,” said Professor Dill.

If that cultural assumption can be changed, nurses “might not necessarily feel that their whole self has to be devoted to their patients – that they can value their job for other reasons as well”, she said.

The researchers also found that nurses who were highly motivated by both the lifestyle the job provides and the ability to interact personally with patients were more satisfied with their employer and less inclined to leave their current post.

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