The mental, physical and emotional health of newly qualified nurses may be influenced by their psychological capital and perceived job fit
- 1Division of Nursing and Midwifery Sciences, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium
- 2Division of Nursing, Antwerp University Hospital, Edegem, Belgium
- Correspondence to: Peter Van Bogaert
Division of Nursing and Midwifery Sciences, University of Antwerp, Universiteitsplein 1, Antwerp, Wilrijk B-2610, Belgium;
Implications for practice and research
Psychological capital as a personal resource influences bullying experiences of new graduate nurses as well as their perception of work environments as well as burnout feelings and physical and mental health problems.
Executives, managers, nurse administrators, physicians as well as nurses need to implement strategies to foster supportive, conflict-free working environments, such as strengthening psychological capital, in order to recruit and retain the next generation of nursing professionals. As a result, the nursing workforce will develop new graduates with high levels of engagement and commitment to their work, which will feed back into creating positive, supportive work environments.
The introduction of new graduate nurses in their first workplace environment is critical. The process has been described as a ‘reality shock’, or a ‘transition shock’. In a previous study, 33% of new graduate nurses reported exposure to bullying behaviours on a weekly or daily basis.1 Workplace bullying and incivility have been linked to increased emotional exhaustion and decreased organisational commitment. Personal resources such as self-esteem and self-efficacy may be protective factors for their mental health and can then influence work engagement. These factors are aggregated by the authors as psychological capital: The ability of respondents to believe in their capacity to fulfil any given task (self-efficacy), be hopeful, optimistic and bounce back from adversity (resilience).2
A causal model was tested on nurses (n=165) with 1 year or less experience. The impact of positive psychological capital upon (1) the match between the person and the job in six areas of work life (workload, control, community, fairness, reward and values congruence), (2) bullying experiences, (3) emotional exhaustion and (4) physical health. In addition, areas of work life as well as bullying experiences influenced also (5) cynicism and (6) mental health, were assessed, respectively.
The data fitted the model. The findings suggested that new graduate nurses with high psychological capital will experience a better person-job fit, less bullying experiences, lower levels of emotional exhaustion and cynicism and ultimate have better health outcomes.
Also, pathways between emotional exhaustion and poor physical health and cynicism and poor mental health were confirmed.
Finally, a better fit was established adding a direct pathway between positive psychological capital and emotional exhaustion.
The researchers utilised a thorough study design based on previous empirical insights with the objective being to understand the complexity of nurses’ psychosocial work environment in association with new graduate nurses outcomes. Previous studies have shown the existence and impact of bullying experiences and in particular bullying experiences of vulnerable groups like new graduate nurses.1
However, one can argue whether positive psychological capital is prerequisite for the areas of work life fit and the experience of bullying or whether it must be seen more as a consequence or a factor interacting with work environment. It might also be questioned whether nursing education can prevent possible burnout symptomatology by strengthening young nurses’ psychological resilience, or whether this psychological vulnerability is a mere consequence of the personality-type attracted to a profession such as nursing.
Interventions that aim to target resilience towards stress and burnout are usually focused at strengthening more psychological variables such as self-efficacy or self-esteem. However, the latter factors are dispositional in nature and possibly not so easily influenced, one factor that merits attention is communication, because victims of bullying are often less assertive.3 Emold et al 4 reported communication, self-efficacy and a positive perception of the working environment to buffer the occurrence of emotional exhaustion and promote self-actualisation. Therefore, communication skills training aimed at an interpersonal communication style that is focused on collaboration might buffer the potential negative side effects of certain practice environments.
A cross-sectional design to test their model, however, as the authors rightfully recommend in the discussion section, a longitudinal study design in future research initiatives would confirm and broaden their study results.
Finally, this research contributes to the understanding and support of the nurse workforce in their daily tasks and the enduring challenge in directing workforce stability and continuing excellent patient care.