Maintaining equilibrium: a theory of job satisfaction for community mental health nurses

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Abstract

This study aimed to explore what was satisfying in the role of community mental health nurse (CMHN). Previous studies have emphasized sources of dissatisfaction but the emphasis on satisfaction allowed the researchers to explore positive aspects of the role which have been largely neglected in previous studies and to explore how these nurses managed to sustain satisfaction. This study used a grounded theory, and the primary source of data was in-depth interviews collected over a 1-year period with 12 CMHNs. Data were analysed using the constant comparative method and theoretical sampling. The therapeutic relationship (being therapeutic, knowing oneself, knowing how) was identified as the most significant source of satisfaction for the CMHNs, but this was mediated by three properties associated with role performance – working for the organization, belonging to a team and maintaining a personal life. The properties associated with role performance affected the participants' experience of the therapeutic relationship which determined whether the CMHNs found their job satisfying. This process of balance and counter-balance is best explained by the core category maintaining equilibrium which accounts for the dynamic interaction that occurs between the therapeutic relationship properties and the role performance properties. As a core category maintaining equilibrium describes the process in which the participants were impelled towards satisfaction.

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