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Learning Enhancement and Development

What influences nurses when they make career decisions?

Career decisions are challenging; they are complex (Kriekshok et al 2009) yet have a profound impact upon the workers’ overall life satisfaction (Wee 2014). I work with nurses who have previously obtained their nursing qualification and have now returned to study for a degree or higher degree. I often discuss career options with these nurses, but was aware that this advice was not evidence-based. I therefore undertook a systematic literature search and found there was little evidence upon which to base career advice, suggesting that this warranted further research.

I took a case-study approach and twenty London-based nurses and ex-nurses were interviewed about their career decisions, along with some managers and educators. The initial findings were confirmed using a questionnaire to the same participants.  The data was analysed using a thematic approach. The data is presented using a career story approach (Savickas 2012), and included why nurses enter the profession, the importance of student placements in their career decisions; why they undertake further studies in nursing; what they are seeking in their careers, how they select a long-term career and why they left nursing or prepared for retirement. This thesis proposes a model whereby there are three groups of “pull factors” which nurses are seeking in their careers. The most important of these was relationships, and the other two were professional fulfilment and life-style.

My recommendations include employers should facilitate nurses in making career moves with their current trust.


  • Savickas, M.L. 2013, "The 2012 Leona Tyler Award Address: Constructing careers - Actors, agents and Authors", The counselling psychologist, vol. 41, no. 4, pp. 648-662.
  • Krieshok, T.S., Black, M.D. & McKay, R.A. 2009, "career decision making
    The limits of rationality and the abundance of non-conscious processes", Journal of vocational behavior, vol. 75, no. 3, pp. 275-290.
  • Wee, S. 2011, "Compromises in career-related decisions:", Dissertation abstracts international: The sciences and engineering, vol. 72, pp. 3771.

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