Motivating personnel skills in any health care organization is important since it is closely related to the level of efficiency, productivity and quality of services. The motivation of occupational behavior is a complex and intricate process that has been studied by researchers from various fields who formulated various theoretical approaches. Nursing science offers a challenging field for the application and testing of theories about work motivation due to the nature and distinct characteristics of nursing profession. Factors such as excessive workload, lack of appreciation towards nursing work, lack of freedom and autonomy, low wages, and lack of reliable evaluation and coordination of services have a negative impact on nurses' morale and thus generate reactions of indifference and cynicism, and lead nurses to experience a loss of motives, enthusiasm and interest. Although these adverse working conditions are associated more with the nursing profession as a whole than with specific work settings or departments, different problems may arise in relation to the nature and characteristics of nursing care in specialized departments such as Intensive Care Units (ICU) or Emergency Departments (ED).
The purpose of this article is to briefly review the key theoretical approaches of work motivation and to identify the factors that hamper nurses’ skills in critical care nursing. Although there are no all-inclusive rules in order to achieve the optimum performance by any nurse in any given time and setting, motivation theories may act as a basis for the formulation of guidelines that may be applied within or out of an existing institutional setting, thus contributing in the motivation of nurses and the full development of their skills.