The theory of planned behaviour states that attitudinal variables (e.g. job satisfaction) only have an indirect effect on retention whereas intentions have a direct effect. This study uses secondary data from a longitudinal cohort of newly qualified nurses to test for the direct and indirect effects of job satisfaction (client care, staffing, development, relationships, education, work-life interface, resources, pay) and intentions to nurse on working as a nurse during the 3 years after qualification.
A national sample (England) of newly qualified (1997/98) nurses (n = 3669) were surveyed at 6 months, 18 months and 3 years. ANOVA and MANOVA were used for comparison of mean job satisfaction scores between groups; intentions to nurse (very likely, likely vs. unlikely, very unlikely and unable to say at this stage); working (or not working as a nurse) at each time-point. Indirect and direct effects were tested using structural equation and logistic regression models.
Intentions expressed at 6 months to nurse at 18 months were associated with higher scores on pay and relationships, and intentions at 3 years were associated with higher scores on care, development, relationships, work-life interface, resources, pay respectively. Intentions expressed at 18 months to nurse at 3 years were associated with higher scores on development, relationships, education and work-life interface. Associations with actual nursing were fewer. Those working as a nurse had higher satisfaction scores for development (18 months) and relationships (3 years). Regression models found significant associations between the pay and staffing factors and intentions expressed at 6 months to nurse at 18 months, and between pay and intentions to nurse at 3 years. Many of the associations between intentions and working as a nurse were significant. Development was the only job satisfaction factor significantly associated with working as a nurse and just at 18 months.
Results partially support the theory of planned behaviour. Intentions expressed by nurses are stronger predictors of working as a nurse than job satisfaction. Retention strategies should focus on identifying nurses showing early signs of departure with emphasis on developmental aspects, mentoring and support.