Module III: Commitment


Defining, Explaining, Characterizing Commitment

Imagine, first, the Universe:  a balanced, natural law-abiding, enlarging, limitless landscape.  In that environment place the Whole Person (refer to Levine’s Conservation Model).  Apply to the scene the concept of Meaning of life and surround it with an aura of Mindfulness.  The Whole Person becomes you, and in your sensitive being you become aware of others in your space who lack resources to sustain well-being. Once you are mindful of those conditions, you spring into action to intervene in or remedy the situation.  Your eyes meet those of the Other and your heart (sensitized with spiritual gifts) responds creatively.

There is a richness in the language when describing interrelationships of nurses and the individuals, communities, and societies they serve. Terms such as dedication of effort, energy, and enthusiasm to care, pledging or engaging oneself, a decided obligation to a course of action or a covenant between nurse and patient come to mind.

Commitment is used in society in various ways: the intent of carrying out a deliberate action, responsive emotional and principled behavior in an intimate relationship following a decision such as marriage in the face of odds, and assigning those in need of psychiatric treatment to an institution. Webster (2000) defines commitment as “(1) an act of committing to a charge or trust, (2) a consignment to a penal or mental institution, (3) an agreement or pledge to do something in the future, (4) dedication to a long-term course of action; engagement; involvement. . . “(Webster’s New World College Dictionary, p. 294).

Commitment is a word used in the vernacular of nursing to refer to an act of dedication to the patient, the profession, or to duty. It appears tacitly in the language of caring and in the language of the employment relationship.

A person is committed if she or he has come to believe that the action being requested is the best or most reasonable action to take” (p. 130).  A committed nurse performs his/her acts of caring distant from accolades because there is an internal, soul-based unction to serve the vulnerable driven by duty, beneficence, and love. The nurse knows self value even in the face of change.

Demographic changes among nurses in the workforce have brought about a complex dynamic that threatens the “community” of nursing care. Some nurses would like to be active in the profession of nursing, but because of the pressures of productivity, time, and skill, are not engaged in nursing. Generation disparities seen in society are demonstrated in the attitudes of Baby Boomers and Generation Xers. Unquestioning compliance to authority, once familiar to older nurses, is fading. Younger nurses desire to participate in decision making and are outspoken with their opinions.  Manion (2000) states, “Compliance is a matter of the mind; commitment engages the heart.


Where does Commitment come from?
Why is it important?
What is its value?/currency?
How much does it cost you (personal investment)?
What is lost if it is not contracted?
How does Emotional Intelligence influence its use?

What are the motivation factors that direct individuals to making a commitment?

Brickman et al (1987) suggested a strong role for belief in what one is doing:

“To be happy, we have to believe that what we are doing or have done is or was the best alternative, even though we can never do all we would like to do or find worthwhile doing.  Without commitment, which enables us to turn costs such as forgone possibilities into enhancement of the chosen option, complete happiness may not be possible. When people are able to forget about alternatives and become intensely committed to some course of action, they can experience great euphoria” (p. 227).

Perhaps the crucial feeling that results is control; there is confidence that any alternative or contradictory demands will be handled with clarity and devoid of disabling stress. One can move forward effectively even in the face of difficulty. “Commitment enables people to act in ways that involve making sacrifices or taking risks that they are decidedly unhappy about but that they understand as being necessary to any possibilities of future happiness or success (Brickman et al, p. 241). Because commitment may offer stability and positive feelings, we are more apt to experience mental/emotional, physical, and spiritual health. The act of commitment is the determinant between the “want to” and the “have to” of a situation. Risks considered in the choice may be alienation, fear, threat of danger, or other sacrifices of well-being.

Commitment Life Cycle

Brickman describes commitment in stages similar to a life cycle. It is an interesting approach and applicable to nursing science.

Stage I: Exploratory or Pre-commitment action in which the individual tests the idea of a commitment decision.

Stage II: Negative elements may emerge to intensify the decision and testing is done by gathering information that leads toward approaching the prospects of a decision either way.

Stage III: The first major synthesis of positive and negative aspects, with negative ones fiercely rejected and positive ones embraced passionately.  Costs may be disregarded, but ambivalence may be present.

Stage IV: As Stage III energy fades, one assumes a quiet demeanor, a status quo is assumed, but there is risk of boredom and an internal build-up of anxiety or crisis occurs.

Stage V: A complex integration of awareness and fading of awareness to the point that the action of commitment may persist in a simple or mindless manner. (pp. 177-79)

Since owning a sense of control makes one feel worthy and gives meaning to one’s job involvement; it follows that one could also feel that having a commitment to the job is meaningful. The reward is in the self-esteem one experiences, so that if an unpleasant event is anticipated, a coping mechanism is put in place and commitment does not flag. Nurses have done this for a long time; however, many economic and social factors are influencing a change of attitude. Idealism in the profession is giving way to disengagement in the battle for fairness, integrity and recognition.

What, then, is Engagement and what is dis-Engagement?

In the transactions of life–personal relationships, education, work/career, employer, community, belief system–what losses have you witnessed when an individual (co-worker, spouse, child, friend) failed to engage in an action you felt very committed to?

What gains have you experienced when an individual you value did engage in an action of your interest?

A personal benefit in making a commitment you feel is worthy is JOY!  Make more joy, become more committed to meaningful ventures.

There are 2 valid and reliable inventories you will gain benefit from:

Meyer-Allen Empl Commitment Survey

Brickmans Inventory

Finally, using the reference resources, the previous content of this course, and your own experience, reflect on benefits, both potential and real, in following through on caregiving in the nursing profession with respect to:

Economical factors
Ethical considerations
Moral considerations
Personal fulfillment

Contribute your ideas, opinions, stories, examples in the comment box below.

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