Original Research

Quality of work life: A unique motivational dynamic for oncology doctors in public health

Lynette Siziba, Antoni Barnard
SA Journal of Industrial Psychology | Vol 49 | a2044 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajip.v49i0.2044 | © 2023 Lynette Siziba, Antoni Barnard | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 July 2022 | Published: 13 February 2023

About the author(s)

Lynette Siziba, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, College of Economic and Management Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Antoni Barnard, Department of Industrial and Organisational Psychology, College of Economic and Management Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Orientation: Public health challenges affect doctors’ motivation, retention and service delivery. Understanding their quality of work life will shed light on managing the impact of these challenges.

Research purpose: This study aimed to construct an understanding of oncology doctors’ quality of work life in a public hospital.

Motivation of the study: Variability in conceptualising quality of work life points to the need for context-specific research to address unique work challenges and employee motivation. Quality of work life is especially relevant in public healthcare oncology units, where job demands are high and resources to support quality medical services are low.

Research approach/design and method: The study followed a hermeneutic phenomenological approach and qualitative design. Data were gathered from nine oncology doctors using virtual, semi-structured interviews and analysed through interpretive phenomenological analysis.

Main findings: Findings highlight the need to address lower-order needs (hygiene factors) to manage contextual limitations and work–life balance challenges that hamper the quality of work life experience. Higher-order needs (motivational factors) help participants to deal with hygiene factors and facilitate quality of work life. Doctors’ career identity supports their coping in this context and is reflected in commitment to meaningful work and achievement drive.

Practical/managerial implications: A holistic quality of work life approach directed at managing lower and higher order needs is proposed, with policies and interventions to ameliorate doctors’ quality of work life experience.

Contribution/value-add: The research contributes to the body of knowledge on quality of work life, especially in public health. Recommendations aim to enhance doctors’ motivation and retention in public hospitals, in view of quality patient care.


quality of work life; oncology doctors; public hospitals; career identity; motivation; hygiene factors; motivational factors; well-being; interpretive phenomenological analysis

JEL Codes

D91: Role and Effects of Psychological, Emotional, Social, and Cognitive Factors on Decision Making; J81: Working Conditions; O15: Human Resources • Human Development • Income Distribution • Migration

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 8: Decent work and economic growth


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