The impact of nursing work environments on patient safety outcomes: the mediating role of burnout/engagement

J Nurs Adm. 2006 May;36(5):259-67. doi: 10.1097/00005110-200605000-00019.


Objective: To test a theoretical model of professional nurse work environments linking conditions for professional nursing practice to burnout and, subsequently, patient safety outcomes.

Background: The 2004 Institute of Medicine report raised serious concerns about the impact of hospital restructuring on nursing work environments and patient safety outcomes. Few studies have used a theoretical framework to study the nature of the relationships between nursing work environments and patient safety outcomes.

Methods: Hospital-based nurses in Canada (N = 8,597) completed measures of worklife (Practice Environment Scale of the Nursing Work Index), burnout (Maslach Burnout Inventory-Human Service Scale), and their report of frequency of adverse patient events.

Results: Structural equation modeling analysis supported an extension of Leiter and Laschinger's Nursing Worklife Model. Nursing leadership played a fundamental role in the quality of worklife regarding policy involvement, staffing levels, support for a nursing model of care (vs medical), and nurse/physician relationships. Staffing adequacy directly affected emotional exhaustion, and use of a nursing model of care had a direct effect on nurses' personal accomplishment. Both directly affected patient safety outcomes.

Conclusions: The results suggest that patient safety outcomes are related to the quality of the nursing practice work environment and nursing leadership's role in changing the work environment to decrease nurse burnout.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alberta / epidemiology
  • Burnout, Professional / prevention & control*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Health Facility Environment*
  • Hospital Restructuring*
  • Humans
  • Iatrogenic Disease / epidemiology
  • Leadership
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Nursing*
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Personnel Staffing and Scheduling
  • Safety Management*