The motivation for Choosing Nursing as a Career: A Self-Determination Theory Perspective


Nursing is widely accepted as a career as it is favorably viewed by society in that it offers career variety, mobility, and security. The desire to care and help others remain the main reason for choosing nursing in the 21st century, as demonstrated by this paper (Mooney et al., 2008). At home, hospitals, or other settings, the nurses are responsible for planning and providing nursing and medical care to patients infected from acute, chronic, or mental sickness. Nurses are part of the professional team and medical staff, including therapists, social workers, and doctors (Alex_TARGETjobs, 2020). General duties of the position include planning and assessing nursing care requirements, coaching student nurses, providing support to the patients and family, workload organization, mentoring junior staff, report writing, taking patients pulses, samples, blood pressures, and temperatures, administering and monitoring intravenous infusions/medication and providing post and pre-operation care (Alex_TARGETjobs, 2020). Twenty-four hours shift work may be one of the job requirements for the job. Schools, health centers, companies, gymnasium, etc., can employ nurses. To become a nurse, one needs to pursue a nursing degree in mental health nursing, learning disability nursing, children nursing, or adult nursing (Alex_TARGETjobs, 2020).

Self-Determination Theory

Self-determination theory is a hypothesis of human inspiration that hypothesizes that individuals seek after goal content through various regulatory methods. It recognizes three unique classifications of inspiration that stretch out along a continuum of expanding self-determination: controlled motivation, amotivation, and autonomous inspiration (Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M., 2000). In this manner, it is easy to differentiate distinct types of regulatory styles that differ in their level of relative self-sufficiency: from natural to external regulation (Messineo et al., 2019). Self-determination theory displays the independent, inspirational, and ideology of causality based on practices that differ in how much they are self-determined, shown in the figure below.

(Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M., 2000)

Problem Scenario

The rate at which nursing students enrollment at learning institutions decreases at an alarming rate and is one of the significant issues affecting the health professional human capital demand. To ensure the retention of undergraduate nursing students, more so those in their first year is a strategy to curb the problem of qualified nurses shortage in the health industry (Messineo et al., 2019). The effectiveness of these plans needs a better understanding of the aspects related to the nursing student attrition through supporting and fostering distinct factors connected with emotions and attitudes linked to retention, and at the same time decreasing alterable aspects linked to weakening (Messineo et al., 2019). Various magnitudes and sorts of causes and characteristics enhancing nursing students’ attrition are occupational factors, societal, political, institutional, and personal reasons for leaving entail the report (Urwin et al., 2010). Research conducted shows how environmental factors contribute to retention and students’ characteristics, such as environmental factors and study motivation, affect student retention (Messineo et al., 2019). Motivation is a significant factor that may cause academic achievement, persistence, and student retention (Messineo et al., 2019).

Solving the Problem

Extrinsic inspiration can be diverse in the degree to which it is independent. It refers to aiming for a goal as a result of external reasons to the activity itself. On the other hand, intrinsic inspiration is a prototype of action and self-determined choice. Extrinsic inspiration and intrinsic inspiration decrease the rate of nursing students’ attrition. Many research studies have researched the relationship between learning and motivation. Students’ motivation affects achievement, study behavior, and education, and it’s associated with academic success (Richardson et al., 2012). Studies reveal that persons with autonomous inspiration tend to be successful concerning learning outcomes compared to controlled stimulation. More so, deep use of reflection in learning and cognitive strategy is associated with autonomous motivation (Messineo et al., 2019). Students who are more involved in an academic task or activity are intrinsically motivated (Messineo et al., 2019). Autonomous profiled students are students with low levels of controlled motivation and high levels of autonomous motivation (Messineo et al., 2019); they tend to be more glued to an academic setup than those with different motivational profiles and carryout optimal study patterns (Messineo et al., 2019). Compared with extrinsic motivation, intrinsic motivation may hinder academic progress (Taylor et al., 2014).

As a result of their frequent occurrence, these motivations are regularly generic, and their utilization can result in difficulty in comprehending the actual motivational leeway influencing the student’s declaration (Messineo et al., 2019). So an acronym may mean an external one (situational factors, peer pressure, parental influence, etc.) or an internal process (like internal pressure or personal interest). Any plan that aims to provide efficient learning methods and increase the nursing student’s retention has to steer toward a more profound comprehension of their motivations. , Structured questioners can be utilized to assist in avoiding inconsistencies. These tools are not straightforward to use, implement and interpret the results. They require support of professional awareness of their creation theory. The questions are often strictly adhered towards measuring only these factors, and the constructs are solidly defined (Messineo et al., 2019). Also, direct queries allow the learners to express their emotions and beliefs concerning their degree course of choice and make it easy to gather self-reported inspirations. However, it comes with a burden to the researcher since it requires the researcher to do the overwhelming work of interpreting the student’s answers. It doesn’t grant them the opportunity to expand the results beyond the distinct research (Messineo et al., 2019).


We have learned about nursing as a career, associated duties, and first-year undergraduate nursing students’ attrition. This study is significant in comprehending the nursing students’ reasons within the self-determination theory framework, a model with a good foundation that can facilitate student retention, successful outcomes, orientate students to join the workforce, and provide reliable information to teachers. I now understand why we have a shortage of nurses leading to us being overworked.


















Alex_TARGETjobs. (2020, November 17). Nurse: Job description. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from

Messineo, L., Allegra, M., & Seta, L. (2019). Self-reported motivation for choosing nursing studies: A self-determination theory perspective. BMC Medical Education, 19(1). doi:10.1186/s12909-019-1568-0

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “What” and “Why” of Goal Pursuits: Human Needs and the Self-Determination of Behavior. Psychological Inquiry, 11(4), 227-268. doi:10.1207/s15327965pli1104_01

Mooney, M., Glacken, M., & O’Brien, F. (2008). Choosing nursing as a career: A qualitative study. Nurse Education Today, 28(3), 385-392. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2007.07.006

Urwin, S., Stanley, R., Jones, M., Gallagher, A., Wainwright, P., & Perkins, A. (2010). Understanding student nurse attrition: Learning from the literature. Nurse Education Today, 30(2), 202-207. doi:10.1016/j.nedt.2009.07.014

Richardson, M., Abraham, C., & Bond, R. (2012). Psychological correlates of university students academic performance: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 138(2), 353-387. doi:10.1037/a0026838

Taylor, G., Jungert, T., Mageau, G. A., Schattke, K., Dedic, H., Rosenfield, S., & Koestner, R. (2014). A self-determination theory approach to predicting school achievement over time: The unique role of intrinsic motivation. Contemporary Educational Psychology, 39(4), 342-358. doi:10.1016/j.cedpsych.2014.08.002

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