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Int J Nurs Stud. 2007 Sep;44(7):1196-209. Epub 2006 Jun 21.

Career choices in health care: is nursing a special case? A content analysis of survey data.

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Faculty of Health and Social Care, University of the West of England, Bristol, Glenside Campus, Blackberry Hill, Stapleton, Bristol BS16 1DD, UK.



As demand for nurses and other health professionals continues to outstrip supply it is important to understand what motivates individuals to join a non-medical health profession.


The objectives of this study were to investigate students' reasons for choosing a particular nursing specialism, midwifery or other non-medical health profession, and to compare motivation factors across professions, gender, age, level of award, prior qualifications, prior experience and over time.


A prospective follow-up study collected survey responses at the beginning and end of pre-qualifying professional programmes.


The study took place in one large United Kingdom faculty.


The study participants were 775 first-year students undertaking non-medical health professional programmes and 393 qualifying students.


An open-ended question was included in a self-completed questionnaire administered at entry and at qualification. Content analysis identified themes.


Altruism was the most frequently cited reason for wishing to join a non-medical health profession, followed by personal interest/abilities, professional values/rewards, and prior experience of the area. Students entering nursing were less likely to cite an altruistic motivation than those entering other non-medical health professions (chi(2)=21.61, df=1, p<0.001). On entry, adult nursing, children's nursing and radiotherapy students were least likely to cite professional values/rewards (chi(2)=20.38, df=8, p=0.009). Students on degree level programmes were more likely to report altruism than those on diploma level courses (chi(2)=17.37, df=1, p<0.001). Differences were also identified between the two data collection points. The number of students identifying altruism (chi(2)=3.97, p=0.046) and professional values/rewards (chi(2)=6.67, p=0.010) decreased over time.


Findings suggest that although a service orientation remains a key factor in choosing nursing, students also look for a career which matches their interests and attributes, as well as offering professional values and rewards. Nursing may be in danger of losing service orientated recruits to other non-medical health professions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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