Send to

Choose Destination
J Adv Nurs. 2012 Jul;68(7):1615-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2012.05991.x. Epub 2012 Mar 21.

Why choose a career in nursing?

Author information

Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Division of Nursing, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.



This paper examines the prevalence of various career-choice motives given by nursing students in two national cohorts at the beginning and end of their education respectively and how these motives are interrelated and associated with perceived career-choice stress.


Several international studies have identified various motives for choosing nursing. The degree to which motives are autonomous or controlled affects an individual's professional development and health. Earlier research on career choice has used small non-representative samples.


Cross-sectional survey.


This was a study of all Swedish undergraduate nursing students in their first (n = 1697) or last (n = 1150) year. The data for this study were collected in 2002, forming the baseline of a prospective longitudinal study where data were collected annually between 2002-2010. Data analysis included descriptive statistics, exploratory factor analysis and multiple regression analysis.


A model incorporating three factors explained 50-60% of the variance in motives for becoming a nurse. 'Genuine interest' was ranked highest, followed by 'practical reasons'. Only a small group of students gave nursing as 'default choice'. Fewer autonomous motives for choosing nursing were associated with perceived career-choice stress.


We suggest that it is imperative for nurse educators to identify students who lack autonomy. Supporting students' autonomy is likely to improve educational outcome, enable professional socialization and decrease professional turnover. Future research on students' motivation in relation to educational outcome and professional turnover as well as quality of patient care is needed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Wiley
Loading ...
Support Center