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Job Satisfaction: A Critical, Understudied Facet of Workforce Development in Public Health

Harper, Elizabeth DrPH; Castrucci, Brian C. MA; Bharthapudi, Kiran PhD; Sellers, Katie DrPH, CPH

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: November/December 2015 - Volume 21 - Issue - p S46–S55
doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000296
Section 2: Workforce Characteristics

Context: The field of public health faces multiple challenges in its efforts to recruit and retain a robust workforce. Public health departments offer salaries that are lower than the private sector, and government bureaucracy can be a deterrent for those seeking to make a difference.

Objective: The objective of this research was to explore the relationship between general employee satisfaction and specific characteristics of the job and the health agency and to make recommendations regarding what health agencies can do to support recruitment and retention.

Design: This is a cross-sectional study using data collected from the 2014 Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS). A nationally representative sample was constructed from 5 geographic (paired adjacent HHS [US Department of Health and Human Services]) regions and stratified by population and state governance type. Descriptive and inferential statistics were analyzed using the balanced repeated replication method to account for the complex sampling design. A multivariate linear regression was used to examine job satisfaction and factors related to supervisory and organizational support adjusting for relevant covariates.

Setting and Participants: PH WINS data were collected from state health agency central office employees using an online survey.

Main Outcome Measure: Level of job satisfaction using the Job in General Scale (abridged).

Results: State health agency central office staff (n = 10 246) participated in the survey (response rate 46%). Characteristics related to supervisory and organizational support were highly associated with increased job satisfaction. Supervisory status, race, organization size, and agency tenure were also associated with job satisfaction.

Conclusions: Public health leaders aiming to improve levels of job satisfaction should focus on workforce development and training efforts as well as adequate supervisory support, especially for new hires and nonsupervisors.

This article explores the relationship between general employee satisfaction and specific characteristics of the job and the health agency and provides recommendations regarding what health agencies can do to support recruitment and retention.

Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Arlington, Virginia (Drs Harper, Bharthapudi, and Sellers); and de Beaumont Foundation, Bethesda, Maryland (Mr Castrucci).

Correspondence: Elizabeth Harper, DrPH, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, 2231 Crystal Dr, Ste 450, Arlington, VA 22202 (eharper@astho.org).

Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS) was funded by the de Beaumont Foundation. The de Beaumont Foundation and the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials acknowledge Brenda Joly, Carolyn Leep, Vicki Pineau, Lin Liu, Michael Meit, the PH WINS technical expert panel, and state and local health department staff for their contributions to the PH WINS.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License, where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially.

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