Nurse Job Satisfaction:

How to Share Responsibility for Engagement

“Nurse job satisfaction” might sound like an oxymoron – words that don’t seem like they fit together these days. External challenges abound regardless of the healthcare environment that nurses work in. Leaders are worried about nurse job satisfaction in hospitals and all other settings. On a regular basis nurses share their concerns of increased burnout. We know that engaged employees are more satisfied, energized and productive and directly impact the quality of patient care. That’s why nurse job satisfaction is a critical goal for healthcare organizations.

As a leader, how can you create shared responsibility for engagement and nurse job satisfaction?

In my first book, SHIFT to Professional Paradise: 5 Steps to Less Stress, More Energy & Remarkable Results at Work, I describe employee engagement as being satisfied, energized and productive at work. I find that the notion of being satisfied, energized and productive is almost universally accepted and something that just about everyone can agree on.

Regarding nurse job satisfaction, let’s take a closer look at those three descriptors:

  • Satisfied is about being psychologically connected with our work. The brain is involved – we get some kind of positive emotional payoff from what we do day-in and day-out.
  • Energized means being willing to put forth effort over time. We behave in ways that demonstrate a high-energy level, such as creative thinking, going above and beyond when necessary, giving discretionary effort and working at an efficient pace.
  • Productive means our efforts contribute to the overall vision and bottom line of the organization. We operate with an ownership mindset and are focused on doing work that helps internal and external customers and the organization.

On the topic of nurse job satisfaction, the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) shares an informative article titled “Nurses’ Widespread Job Dissatisfaction, Burnout, And Frustration With Health Benefits Signal Problems For Patient Care.

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Most nurses inherently want to be satisfied, energized and productive at work; they just don’t call it “being engaged” or “nurse job satisfaction.”

Nurses genuinely want to contribute and make a positive difference for those they serve, and as a leader you can tap into this internal motivation. Nurses want to make positive connections with internal or external customers and co-workers. And they want to feel appreciated on a regular basis through thought, word and deed.

Executives and leaders talk about “employee engagement” and “nurse job satisfaction” but team members don’t. Most nurses don’t wake up in the morning and say, “I want to be engaged at work today.” The concept of employee engagement and job satisfaction often gets a bad rap on the frontlines because employees see this as being a “win” for the organization or for customers, but not for themselves.

Some nurses perceive that “engagement” and “job satisfaction” statistics are important to the organization and leaders primarily because it’s a way to get more work and productivity out of them. That needs to change. For some organizations, internal nurse job satisfaction surveys may be geared around this misguided notion. As leaders, we need to help employees understand that when they are satisfied, energized and productive at work, everyone wins, including them.

When it comes to nurse job satisfaction factors, I find that nurses relate more to the idea of being satisfied, energized and productive – or what I call Professional Paradise™ – than engagement. The concept of Professional Paradise answers the “what’s in it for me” question that employees have about engagement and job satisfaction. In Professional Paradise, the employee benefits just as much as the organization and its stakeholders. Unfortunately, far too few employees today actually make a connection to engagement and Professional Paradise.

Nurse job dissatisfaction is ubiquitous – no leader or healthcare organization is immune.

Don’t believe for a minute that you don’t have disengaged nurses on your team and that they aren’t costing you money. Nurse job satisfaction statistics bear this out. Think of employees on your team who are perpetual complainers. They never seem to be happy regardless of what happens around them. They are minimally productive, disconnected, self-focused and often angry or disruptive. These folks are members of what I call the Chain Gang, and they have sentenced themselves to Professional Prison. In other words, they choose to be disengaged and dissatisfied.

As you’ve probably guessed, when it comes to nurse job satisfaction, most people fall somewhere in the middle, between Professional Prison and Professional Paradise. These nurses are on Professional Parole. They have the potential to change their behaviors and make a positive difference on your team, with some direction and accountability. They are worth spending your time and energy on, so show them some love. It will make a difference to the individual in terms of nurse job satisfaction and patient outcomes.

You may think that the idea of Professional Paradise is unrealistic or even hokey, but it resonates with nurses. And if we are going to ask them to be accountable for their own engagement and job satisfaction, we need to use language that works for everyone. Asking employees to commit to “being engaged” is vague and lackluster and likely won’t produce consistent results. On the other hand, asking employees to commit to being satisfied, energized and productive at work every day is both motivating and empowering. The idea of Professional Paradise gives every individual a goal and, as a leader, it helps you encourage nurse job satisfaction throughout your team.

Engagement Insights & Ideas