Skip to main content

Two Predictors of Job Satisfaction Among New Nurse Managers

Analysis  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   March 29, 2016

The most important factors related to job satisfaction among new nurse managers are not the same as they are for novice staff nurses or even more experienced managers.

When it comes to improving care quality and outcomes, reining in healthcare costs, and providing value-based care, nursing is where the rubber of an organization’s strategic plan meets the road. And, according to Maja Djukic, PhD, RN, assistant professor in College of Nursing at New York University, frontline nurse managers are essential players in achieving these goals.

“Nurses are there around-the-clock to care for their patients and have this unique opportunity to improve individual patient care because we are with patients constantly,” she says. “Unit-level managers are in a similar position, in terms of affecting outcomes for the entire population of patients on their particular unit, because they usually have 24-hour responsibility for patient outcomes on that unit.”

Frontline managers also affect the retention of staff nurses, says Djukic, a co-investigator for the RN Work Project, a decade-long, national study on new nurses’ careers funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and launched in 2006 by principal investigators Christine T. Kovner, RN, PhD, FAAN of NYU’s College of Nursing and Carol S. Brewer, RN, PhD, FAAN of the University at Buffalo (New York) School of Nursing.

“I had been working with Dr. Kovner as a doctoral student and was really interested in jobs satisfaction and turnover of nurses,” she says. “As I developed that line of work, I realized my key audience was really managers because one of the top reasons new nurses were leaving their jobs was poor management. So I became more interested in the nurse manager workforce.”

As the study participants gained career experience, some began taking on roles as nurse managers, and Djukic is now collecting data on new nurse managers—those with less than two years of experience as frontline nurse managers.

“As our sample of new nurses matured, more of them were going into management positions, so I had more data on these new nurses who then transitioned into manager roles and were new in their role of the manager.”

She recently published some of her findings on this group in Health Care Management Review.

So what influences new nurse managers job satisfaction rates? The two most important factors, says Djukic, are personality and procedural justice.


I once worked with someone who always had something to complain about. It didn’t matter if she was working on the frontline or working as a manager, nothing was ever right. Eventually, I concluded that even if she worked at the grocery store deli counter, she’d still find fault with something. She had what Djukic describes as a “negative affect” or a tendency to see things through a pessimistic lens.

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that new nurse managers who rated themselves as having a negative affect (strongly identifying with statements like, “Minor setbacks sometimes irritate me too much.”) reported lower rates of job satisfaction.

Changing someone’s personality is difficult so it’s best to consider this factor before filling a manager position. “There’s an opportunity to be more mindful in terms of selection [of managers] into these roles and to pay attention to people’s personalities,” says Djukic.

Senior managers have much greater control over the second factor, procedural justice.

Organizational Involvement

“What that means is, for novice managers, it’s really important for them to feel involved in organizational decision making,” she says. “They want to senior leaders to be transparent about how decisions that involve or affect these novice mangers are being made.”

New nurse managers also want to be able to have input into decisions that affect nurses.

“The factor that had the greatest influence in job satisfaction was this idea of organizational involvement and asking managers what they think, and also asking them to contribute to changes that will affect them in the future,” she says.

Additionally, Djukic found that novice nurse managers desired a high-degree of autonomy and variety in their positions as well as having opportunities for mentoring and creating and building collegial relationships their peers and with physicians. The presence of organization constraints, like barriers to the resources necessary to do their jobs, also played a role in satisfaction rates.

“The most important factors related to novice nurse manager satisfaction are not exactly the same as they are for novice staff nurses or even more experienced managers,” she says. “This group has a unique set of needs, and so the programs to improve their job satisfaction should really be customized. In order to retain them, be mindful about the specific needs this particular group.” 

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

Get the latest on healthcare leadership in your inbox.