Part-time versus full-time work: an empirical evidence-based case of nurses in Spain

Publication Date14 October 2014
AuthorRonald J. Burke,Simon L. Dolan,Lisa Fiksenbaum
SubjectHR & organizational behaviour,Global HRM
Part-time versus full-time work:
an empirical evidence-based case
of nurses in Spain
Ronald J. Burke
Schulich School of Business, York University, Toronto, Canada
Simon L. Dolan
ESADE Business School, Ramon Llull University, Barcelona, Spain, and
Lisa Fiksenbaum
Department of Psychology, York University, Toronto, Canada
Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the reasons given by nurses for working par t-time;
compare the work experiences, satisfactions, and psychological well-being of nursing staff working
full-time vs part-time; and identify possible antecedents and sources of leverage to encourage
part-time nurses to work full-time.
Design/methodology/approach – An online survey was developed, pre-tested and validated, and
sent to the regional associations of nurses in Spain for distribution to their members. Data collection
involved a cross-sectional design. A total of 2,094 valid questionnaires were completed online.
The majority of responding nurses were located in Catalunya and Gipuzkoa. Respondents were given
15 reasons and asked to indicate the extent to which each played a role in their decision to work
part-time. Job context and job content scales bearing multi items reliable measures were also
employed. All scales met the criteria of reliability.
Findings – Nurses working full-time included more males, were older, had longer nursing experience
(both job and unit tenure), reported higher levels of both job resources (autonomy, self-development
opportunities), higher levels of positive work attitudes ( job involvement, affective commitment, work
engagement), more medication use, and a higher intention to quit. Full-time and part-time nursing staff
were similar on marital status, levels of social support (supervisor, co-worker, spouse, and family),
self-reported absenteeism, levels of burnout, levels of psychological well-being (psychosomatic
symptoms, self-reported health), and potential accident propensity. Some of the more concrete results
include: first, reasons for working part-time were varied with some being voluntary (going to sc hool)
and others involuntary (poor he alth). Second, different clusters of individuals likely exist (e.g. students,
caretakers, transitioning to retirement or other career options). Third, part-time nursing staff tended to
report a more negative workplace (less autonomy, fewer opportunities for self-development) and
less favorable work attitudes (less engagement, job involvement,and affective commitment) than their
full-time counterparts.
Research limitations/implications – First, all data were collected using self-rep ort questionnaires,
raising the possibility of response set tendencies. Second, all data were collected at one point in time,
making it difficult to determine cause-effect relationships. Third, although the sample was very large,
it was not possible to determine its representativeness or a response rate given the data collection
procedure employed. Fourth, the large sample size resulted in relatively small mean differences
reaching levels of statistical significance. Fifth, many of the nurse and work/organizational outcomes
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 14 February 2013
Revised 8 April 2013
5 June 2013
Accepted 15 June 2013
Evidence-based HRM: a Global
Forum for Empirical Scholarship
Vol. 2 No. 2, 2014
pp. 176-191
rEmeraldGroup PublishingLimited
DOI 10.1108/EBHRM-02-2013-0001
This work has been supported in part by the MEC (Spanish Ministry of Education and Science)
grant number SEJ2007-67618. The authors also wish to express the gratitude to the Col legi
Oficial d’Infermeres de Barcelona for their instrumental assistance. Finally, the authors wish to
thank Scott Moodie and Nicholas Bahr, doctoral candidates in ESADE, for their endeavors in
collecting the data and in providing feedback on an earlier version of the paper.
were themselves significantly correlated inflating the number of statistically significant relationships
reported. Finally, it is not clear to what extent the findings apply to Spain only.
Practical implications – Health care organizations interested in encouraging and suppor ting
part-time nursing staff to consider working full-time may have some sources of leverage. Part-time
nursing staff indicated generally lower levels of commitment involvement and engagement compared
to their full-time colleagues. Part-time nursing staff in this study reported lower levels of job resources,
such as autonomy and self-development opportunities. Increasing nursing staff input into decision
making, increasing levels of nursing staff empowerment, increasing supervisor y development that
in supporting and respecting the nursing staff contributions, reducing levels of workplace incivility,
and improving nursing work team functioning would make the work exp eriences of part-time nursing
staff more meaningful and satisfying. In addition, offering more flexible work schedules and tackling
the stereotype associated with working only part-time would also address factors associated with
working part-time. A more long-term strategy would involve enhancing both the psychological and
physical health of nursing staff through the introduction of a corporate wellness initiative. Increasing
the work ability of nursing staff by improving their psychological and physical well-being addresses a
common factor in the part-time work decision.
Social implications – There is a call in the paper for Spanish authorities to consider implementing
the “Magnet hospital program” which is one model that has been shown to improve nurse and patient
outcomes and is one solution to the shortage of hospital nurses in attracting them to work on a full-
time basis. The process of Magnet recognition involves implementing 14 evidence-based standards.
Originality/value – Experts claim that the part-time phenomenon is a growing trend and is there to
stay.The authors still do not know sufficiently about the HR implications for having a large workforce
of part-time employees. In this paper, a tentative attempt was made to better understand this
phenomenon, especially when there is a shortage of qualified nurses in the health sector. Several
promising research directions follow from this investigation. First, nurses working part-time ne ed to
be polled to identify factors that would encourage and support them should they desire to change
to full-time work. Second, the authors learn more about the relatively low levels of involvement,
commitment, and engagement of part-time nurses, a phenomenon that most organizations wish to
Keywords Nurses, Employee motivation, Recruitment and retention, Part-time work,
Full-time work, Evidence-based consequences, Psychological and physical health
Paper type Research p aper
1. Introduction
Although various countries have different systems for delivering health care to their
citizens, the health care budget of almost all countries is typically the largest expense
item, with the largest share of this budget item devoted to salaries of employees
(Spurgeon et al., 2012). Nurses comprise the largest employee group in the health care
sector. Nurses also make a significant contribution to levels of patient satisfaction and
quality of care.
Nurses then, play an important role in the delivery of health care. Unfortunately,
there is growing evidence that nurses in several countries have become increasingly
dissatisfied with their work experiences, resulting in lower morale, increased turnover,
and a more negative image of the nursing profession in the views of potential nursing
students. There has been a consistent drop in the number of full -time nursing staff over
the past two decades. Many countries have reported a nursing shortage that will only
get worse, with more developed countries attempti ng to attract nurses from still
developing countries, reducing the level of nursing staff in the latter countries (Brush
et al., 2004). Nursing recruiters have come to Toronto Canada from California and
Texas to recruit Canadian nurses, and Canadian, Spanish Suisse or French authorities,
for example, are turning to countries such as the Philippin es to recruit their own nurses
and fill up the vacancies.
Part-time versus
full-time work

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