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Mattering: A Fundamental Need

The health care system is in chaos. Health care institutions are experiencing financial stresses. Health care workers are experiencing burnout, compassion fatigue, and staffing shortages. Patients have increasingly complex medical conditions and mental health issues and are often lashing out at caregivers. Nurses are at the sharp end of the intersections between the struggles of the system, health care workers, and patients as nurses themselves struggle to find meaning in the work they do.

Although many of these issues have been present for years, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has left nurses, as well as others, lacking a sense that our own lives have meaning and that we are connected to the people and events in the world.1 A similar, related concept is that of mattering—the need to feel valued and that we add value.2,3 Mattering is considered fundamental for psychological well-being3—"experience... recognition, respect and affirmation while... making a contribution."3(p1431) Mattering can be experienced in several aspects of life—personal, interpersonal, occupational, and community.1,2 Ideally, one would feel a balance between feeling valued and adding value.

In the occupational realm, literature shows that mattering can be a predictor of a person's employment status.4 A sense of mattering is related to a person's intent to leave their job; those who aren't shown that they matter will readily leave their position.5 This is being demonstrated on a daily basis in health care. Nurses who don't feel they have a voice, who don't feel their psychological and physical safety are prioritized at work, who don't feel the value of the work they do is recognized and respected are leaving not only their jobs but the nursing profession. It is essential that the public, healthcare leaders, and colleagues support nurses in meeting this fundamental need of mattering.

  • The public needs to show nurses that they matter. Nurses need to be treated with respect and feel safe physically and psychologically when providing care.
  • Health care leaders need to show nurses that they matter. Leaders' words of praise and respect need to be backed up with actions that provide prompt responses to concerns, demonstrating mattering through congruence between words and actions.
  • Nurses can provide support by showing one another they matter, demonstrating that they see and appreciate their colleagues and their work.
  • Finally, just as importantly, nurses can practice self-compassion, acknowledging to self that you as an individual matter.

For "when it is all said and done, people will remember those people who showed them they mattered, but they will even more so remember anyone who made them feel, through action and inaction, like they didn't matter."5(p119) 

Mary Fran Tracy, PhD, RN, APRN, CCNS, FCNS, FAAN 


  1. Samios C, Praskova A, Radlinska B. The relationship between COVID-19 pandemic-related stress and meaning in life: testing the moderating effects of self-compassion and savoring. Anxiety Stress Coping. 2022;35(1):9-24. doi:10.1080/10615806.2021.1974408
  2. Scarpa MP, Di Martino S, Prilleltensky I. Mattering mediates between fairness and well-being. Front Psychol. 2021;12:744201. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.744201
  3. Scarpa MP, Zopluoglu C, Prilleltensky I. Assessing multidimensional mattering: development and exploratory validation of the Mattering in Domains of Life Scale (MIDLS). J Community Psychol. 2022;50:1430-1453.
  4. Reece A, Yaden D, Kellerman G, et al. Mattering is an indicator of organizational health and employee success. J Positive Psychol. 2019;16(2):228-248. doi:10.1080/17439760.2019.1689416
  5. Flett GL, Zangeneh M. Mattering as a vital support for people during the COVID-10 pandemic: the benefits of feeling and knowing that someone cares during times of crisis. J Concurrent Disord. 2020;2(1):106-123.
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