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Self-Determination Theory in Nursing Work Area Essay

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Updated: Mar 31st, 2021


Self Determination Theory (SDT) describes human behavior with respect to compelling personalities (Brown 2007, p. 100). From the case study provided, various aspects of SDT are evident. Contextually, this theory tries to explain what motivates people to make critical life choices. This considers the driving force behind each choice made. Concurrently, the psychological needs of the people are also addressed in this theory. The theory explains why people grow and the causes of this growth. Every person has a motivation behind what he or she does; this is why knowledge of this theory is necessary to explain human behavior and how they react to different situations (Deci & Ryan 1985, p. 34).

Motivation is the drive that one gets to do something; people get motivated by various things and for different reasons. There are two major types of motivation; Intrinsic and extrinsic motivation (Deci & Ryan 2004, p. 123). Intrinsic motivation- this motivation comes from within. The concerned person is driven by the passion he or she has for tasks. It is usually self-inspired. Extrinsic motivation- this type of motivation is influenced by external factors such as; an increase in the salary, job promotion, fame, money, and for socializing purposes.

Main body

Evidently, SDT is a motivational theory used to describe the psychological needs of people. There are three elements of this theory (Otto 2010, p. 188). These are; autonomy, competence feedback, and relatedness. Each component has a role to play in the development of the theory.


Rewarding people to boost their performance tends to decrease their intrinsic drive. This in turn lowers their autonomy. The person becomes more driven by external rewards; they become less interested in their intrinsic motivation. This may be necessary to enhance the performance of the workers, but it also destroys their passion and the zeal that they have. Removal of these external rewards may also make a person less motivated and thus may tend to do a shoddy job.


Evidently, giving positive compliments to people can greatly enhance their ability to perform and do work. These compliments enhance a person’s intrinsic motivation resulting in improved delivery in his or her performance. At the same length, negative compliments demoralize a person and make them less motivated. It is important to give the employees positive remarks on perfectly performed duties. This will boost their morale with a consequent increase in performance.


The need for relatedness is very important. Critically, this allows one to more connect with the work that they are doing. The employer should try and relate well to his subjects and try to listen to them. This guarantee viable workplace relation as indicated earlier. Additionally, it is important to understand all knowledgeable aspects as demonstrated earlier in the paper. Considerably, people who are working in a given area should do team building to enhance relationships they have with each other (Self-determination theory.org. 2006, p. 1).

The theory also tries to explain how the human mind is different. People behave differently under different circumstances and this solely depends on their environment. People have different personalities unique to them. People are motivated differently. It is crucial to agree that motivational sources are different when considered critically. This is evident in Madeline’s case as provided in the study.

It is possible to use SDT to diagnose motivational problems experienced by the staff. Contextually, SDT (as a theory) is not only applied in the work areas but can also be used for building relationships in schools, playgrounds, families, and religious places. It aims at improving understanding of a person’s personality and psychological needs. People need understanding in all these aspects of life. The theory is very important and it should be employed by leaders who have people working under them as indicated earlier.

This theory can be applied in the case that concerns Madeline. Evidently, she could use constructive tips from this theory to help her deal with the situation in her work area. Her staff is lacking motivation in their work area. This is making them give poor results in their work and also be unhappy while they are attending to their duties. She should try and motivate her subjects so as to make them deliver better and to do a good job.

From the case study, it is notable that a good working environment, that favors the performance of the nurses, should be provided. The number of patients assigned to each nurse should be reduced so that the concerned workers can execute their duties successfully. A nurse should be assigned at most three patients at a time. This means that more personnel should be added to the staff to reduce the workload and make the staff be less frustrated while carrying out their duties. This is an extrinsic motivation since the workers’ workload is reduced and they have demands that are less. They would avoid strain hence happier in their work.

Extra allowances should also be granted to the nurses to make them more focused on their job and look forward to doing their shifts. As noted from the case, Madeline is given allowances for any extra work she does. This gives her motivation and makes her look forward to her shift. This explains the reason why she comes to work early and leaves late in the evening. The motivation to achieve greatness is evident in her; she has a driving force meant to compel her endeavors as a health practitioner. It is recommendable the same should happen to other workers in order to keep them motivated.

Evidently, Madeline admires the way Margret does her work. From the case study, it is evident that Margret loves her work and gives it her best. However, Madeline hardly tells her that she is good at what she is doing. Instead of appreciating her, she interrogates her strongly, and this really annoys Margaret. Madeline should try to encourage her and compliment her on the good work that she does. This will help to build her intrinsic motivation since she loves her work.

Compliments boost a person’s self-esteem and make them feel important. This is necessary for any work institution. Madeline does not relate to her nurses well. Margret’s effort of trying to make her open-minded is taken as a mockery (Switzky 2004, p. 34). She does not appreciate that the nurses are also knowledgeable and can give her tips on how to better her management skills. This poor relationship results in workers feeling unhappy and sad hence demoralized. She should improve her listening skills and have a teachable spirit.

Concurrently, Molly gives her best when it comes to performing her duties. However, she has a weakness in using new skills to treat patients. Molly is not up to date with modern methods of treatment. This calls for Madeline to introduce short courses that will help old nurses like Molly to be versed with the modern methods of treating patients to ensure that she delivers her best. This is a form of motivation than extrinsic.

The short courses that are done will make Molly more educated on modern technology and this will make her embrace her work well and also learn new information (Matson 2009, p. 27). This is very relevant for the growth of the hospital. The fact that she does not ask her fellow colleagues how to go about the new methods could be an indicator of poor staff relationships. Madeline should try and find ways of enhancing staff relationships. This is important as they can learn from each other and aim for greatness.

Madeline is too strict. She does not allow her workers to have chats while they are in the line of duty. This could be another reason as to why the ward is dull and the staff’s inability to grow (Christenson, Reschly & Wylie 2012, P. 152).

She should soften up and not be too hard on them. A sensible person will do her duties diligently and concentrate less on idle talk when they are busy. These chats can also brighten someone’s day and make them happy and look forward to reporting to their place of work. Madeline exempts herself from the night shifts; this is not a good thing to do. She should also have night shifts just like the rest of the staff. She should not feel too special to the other nurses.

SDT suggests that individuals are different and each person is unique. This explains the difference between Molly and Margret. Madeline should also try to read and understand different personality traits that her staff possesses so that she can be able to understand them well. Personality is a very important attribute to learn in a person and it makes motivation easier (Mcinerney & Van Etten 2004, p. 33). She will have to deal with their needs in a way that is unique to each one of them because they have different needs that need to be addressed. This calls for intelligence on how to deal with such an issue.

Madeline should not try to use the managerial systems that she saw being used in her previous workplace. She should find new ways of dealing with her staff because they are in different environments and she is dealing with different people with different personalities. She has a new position as the head of the ward, she should get more education on how to lead her staff so that they deliver and have enjoyed the work that they are doing.

Madeline feels that she is doing her best yet her subjects are hardly contented with what she does. She comes to work early and leaves late; she checks the roosters and monitors what the nurses do. She makes a lot of mistakes that are minor and yet very important. She should try and have talks with her staff to help her to evaluate herself and also to make her learn her mistakes. This is the first step towards building a relationship with her staff in the area of work. She should also try to take the course on “organizational behavior” that is offered at the University of Sydney.

SDT explains how motivation can be used to enhance the efficiency and performance of a person in the workplace. However, this theory has its own weaknesses. Extrinsic motivation may make a person lose their intrinsic motivation. The need to reward workers for well-executed duties can make some people do what they do in order to gain rewards. This in turn destroys their autonomy (Diclemente, Crosby & Kegler 2009, p. 158). Complimenting some workers may make them feel that they are better than other staff members. Thus, this can create enmity among the people working in the same office. The theory also emphasizes understanding different personalities. It may be a difficult task for the leader to try and understand each and everyone’s personality in a work environment that is very busy and big.


Knowledge of SDT is very relevant. It educates one on how motivation can be used to enhance efficiency in the workplace. This theory is focused on human development. It has three major components. These are; autonomy, relatedness, and competence. Madeline is not pleased with the sad mood that is at her workplace. She has identified the problems that she is not pleased with hence should try to work on the issues related. The knowledge on SDT is very handy since it equips her to be able to solve the problems that she is facing at her workplace (Johnson 2009, p. 90). Margret and Molly both need motivation. Despite working in the same environment, they have different needs and should be motivated differently.

List of References

Brown, L 2007, Psychology of motivation, Nova Science Publ., New York, NY.

Christenson, S., Reschly, A & Wylie, C 2012, Handbook of research on student engagement, Springer,. New York, NY.

Deci, E & Ryan, R 1985, Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior, Plenum, New York, NY.

Deci, E & Ryan, R 2004, Handbook of self-determination research, Univ. of Rochester Press, Rochester, NY.

Diclemente, R., Crosby, R & Kegler, M 2009, Emerging theories in health promotion practice and research, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

Johnson, J 2009, Health organizations: theory, behavior, and development, Jones and Bartlett Publishers, Sudbury, MA.

Matson, J 2009, Social behavior and skills in children, Springer, New York, NY.

Mcinerney, D & Van Etten, S 2004, Big theories revisited, Information Age Pub, Greenwich, CT.

Otto, H 2010, Education, welfare and the capabilities approach a European perspective, Budrich Press, Opladen.

Self determination theory.org. 2006, An Approach To Human Motivation and Personality. Self Determination Theory. Web.

Switzky, H 2004, Personality and motivational systems in mental retardation, Elsevier Academic Press, Amsterdam.

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