As demand for nurses continues to surpass supply in Malawi it is important to understand what motivates new entrants to join and remain in the profession. The objectives of this study were to understand students’ motivations for choosing nursing and their future career plan which has implications for developing strategies to enhance professional satisfaction and career fulfilment.
The study used qualitative study methods. A purposively selected sample size of 37 final year students was used. There were 16 individual in depth interviews and 3focus group discussions. The study was conducted in 2 colleges of nursing in Malawi; Nkhoma College which trains diploma students and Kamuzu College of Nursing (KCN) which trains BSc nurses. Interviews covered how and why nurses entered nursing, their training experiences and future career plans. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.
The findings highlight that the choice of nursing course was influenced by desire to help people, admiration from significant others including nurse models, anticipated career rewards while almost half was by default however their training experiences were crucial to reframing nursing as a ‘suitable job’. For nearly all students the impact of training experiences through contact with coursework, practical and lecturers on career choice were marked. Nursing was seen as a viable career particularly for undergraduate students from KCN, where it is regarded ‘a guaranteed job with prospects’. Almost all nurses interviewed intended to seek employment in public sector citing theirs reason as opportunities to pursue advanced nursing qualification to satisfy career objectives; increased knowledge, skills and economic rewards. Undesirably, most students indicated preference to have non clinical job after attaining higher qualifications following observation that that there are no established clinical job post for nurse specialist in Malawi.
Findings suggest that preservice orientation remains a key factor in choosing nursing. Students also look for a career which offer professional values and rewards. If advanced clinical nursing practioner career path remain undefined nursing may be in danger of losing service orientated recruits to other non-clinical professions.