How critical activities within COVID-19 intensive care units increase nurses’ daily occupational calling

Yue ZHU, Tingting CHEN, Jie WANG, Mo WANG, Russell E. JOHNSON, Yanghua JIN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


During normal and predictable circumstances, employees’ occupational calling (i.e., a transcendent passion to use their talent and competencies toward positive societal impact and a sense of meaningfulness derived from working in a chosen occupational domain) is observed to be relatively stable. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, circumstances have become anything but normal and predictable, thus putting employees’ sense of occupational calling to the test. In this study, we investigate the possibility that occupational calling fluctuates across days during situations of crisis, and we identify antecedents and consequence of such fluctuations. To test our model, we conducted a daily diary study of 66 nurses working in intensive care units over 5 consecutive work days in a specialized Wuhan hospital that only admitted confirmed COVID-19 patients during the peak of the pandemic in China. We found that the daily number of code blue events (i.e., cardiopulmonary resuscitation efforts with the primary goal of patient revival) was positively related to daily occupational calling for nurses. Moreover, individual differences in prosocial motivation predicted the average level and variability of occupational calling over the 5 days, which subsequently related to the nurses’ job performance. Our study sheds light on how occupational calling enables people with the needed occupational knowledge and skills to function effectively in crisis situations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-14
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Applied Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

This research was supported in part by a research grant from the National Science Foundation of China (Grant 71902092) and the Outstanding Researcher Support System at Nottingham University Business School China awarded to Jie Wang. We have no known conflict of interest to disclose.


  • occupational calling
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • health care
  • prosocial motivation


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