Influence of temperament and character traits on nurse retention

Eley, Diann, Eley, Robert M, Rogers-Clark, Cath and Young, Janet L. (2009). Influence of temperament and character traits on nurse retention. In: Abstracts of the APA 117th Convention. APA 117th Convention, Toronto, Canada, (166-166). 6-9 August, 2009.

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Author Eley, Diann
Eley, Robert M
Rogers-Clark, Cath
Young, Janet L.
Title of paper Influence of temperament and character traits on nurse retention
Conference name APA 117th Convention
Conference location Toronto, Canada
Conference dates 6-9 August, 2009
Proceedings title Abstracts of the APA 117th Convention
Place of Publication Canada
Publisher APA
Publication Year 2009
Sub-type Poster
Start page 166
End page 166
Total pages 1
Language eng
Formatted Abstract/Summary
In order to address the worldwide shortage of nurses many studies have quantified turnover; calculated expected retention and presented the causes of intended departure. However little is known about the fundamental workforce issue of why nurses stay in the profession. This project will determine if there are personality traits that are associated with nurse retention. Ten percent (24,973) of the currently registered nurses in Australia are not nursing and are not looking for employment in nursing 1. In the US a similar percentage exists 2, 3. Data on departure are usually obtained from studies on intentions to remain in nursing. However it is important to view data based on intent rather than action with some caution 4. There are far fewer studies on why nurses stay in nursing. Research has looked at views and perceptions based on personal and professional reasons such as pay and workload for staying or leaving the workforce 5, 6, 7. Little information exists on non tangible reasons for nurses to stay i.e. personality factors and in particular, temperament and character traits. The importance of personality traits has much support through studies that identify characteristics associated with medical and health profession 8, 9. Recent work by Eley et al (2007)10 has identified different trait profiles of urban and rural doctors and medical students using the Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI) 11. The TCI provides a psychobiological model of personality. Temperament is defined as those components of personality that are heritable and developmentally stable. Character traits are a reflection of personal goals and values and are subject to socio-cultural learning. The identification of distinct profiles of temperament and character traits among different nursing roles may provide insight into what traits are conducive to retention of nurses in these roles. Studies by the authors have investigated the personality traits of rural doctors and medical students to better understand what factors are beneficial in retaining doctors in rural areas. Our aim was to replicate this work in nurses by describing individual levels and combinations of temperament and character traits, in conjunction with personal experience and background. Our research set out to determine; 1) the levels (profiles) of temperament and character traits in nurses in various nursing roles, 2) whether these temperament and character profiles relate to specific demographics, and 3) if there is relationship between temperament and character traits and nurse retention.


A survey was developed and administered on-line to all nursing students (n = 860) attending the University of Southern Queensland’s registered nurse programme in the second semester of 2008 and all nurses (n = 880) employed by Queensland Health in the Toowoomba and the Darling Downs Health Service District of south east Queensland. Demographic data included age, sex, marital and family status, nurse qualification, years in nursing, type of workplace, preferred workplace location (i.e. rural, regional, urban), background (i.e. rural, urban), length of time worked in rural, regional and urban locations. A set of questions were offered asking why they left the previous employer, why they stay in their current employment, their intentions to remain in nursing and the reasons for staying or leaving. The TCI R-140 completed the survey.

Preliminary Results
A total of 535 responses were received giving an overall response rate of 31%. Individual response rates from nurses (n= 263, 47.9%) was 30% and nursing students (n=272, 52.1%) was 32%. The majority of all respondents were female (n=472, 90.1%), aged between 40-49 years (n=158, 30.2%), worked in the acute sector (n=142, 45.7%) and had been working as a nurse for over 15 years (n=199, 55.1%). Registered nurses (level 1 and 2) made up the majority of nurses (n=151, 42.7%). Sixty six percent (n=327) of the participants identified as having a rural background/upbringing and the preferred practice location was reported as a regional town (n=197, 40.2%) followed by a small rural centre (n=78, 15.9%).In addition to undertaking their nursing degree 121 (45%) of the nursing students were currently employed as enrolled nurses or nursing assistants. Student nurses who were also working as a nurse were similar to nurses in feeling that nursing was ‘their vocation in life’ while student nurses (not working as a nurse) reported that they ‘find the work interesting’ as their most important reason. In response to the question, what would be your reason for leaving nursing as a career, student nurses ranked, ‘another career’ highest while nurses ranked ’disillusionment’ as the main reason. Analysis of the TCI subscale scores along with the demographic data will comprise the profile of our sample. This analysis will investigate trait differences within these nurses by demographic variables and perceptions to nursing as a career. Considering the stereotypical ‘caring role’ of nurses, eventual comparison of the Temperament and Character profiles of doctors 10 with our sample of nurses will be of interest.

Considering the global challenges surrounding health workforce shortages, this preliminary research may be the precursor to a new approach to a better understanding of traits and personal variables associated with the nursing profession. This information could inform policies and procedures around the recruitment of new nurses and the retention of those in the profession.

Subjects EX
11 Medical and Health Sciences
1110 Nursing
111099 Nursing not elsewhere classified
Q-Index Code EX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code

Document type: Conference Paper
Collection: School of Medicine Publications
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Created: Mon, 24 Aug 2009, 10:39:05 EST by Erin Bowly on behalf of Rural Clinical School - South West Qld Region