Aim: To explore the mechanisms through which nurse practice environment dimensions are associated with job outcomes and nurse-assessed quality of care. Mediating variables tested included nurse work characteristics of workload, social capital, decision latitude, as well as burnout dimensions of emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and personal accomplishment.
Background: Acute care hospitals face daily challenges to their efforts to achieve nurse workforce stability, safety, and quality of care. A body of knowledge shows a favourably rated nurse practice environment as an important condition for better nurse and patient outcome variables; however, further research initiatives are imperative for a clear understanding to support and guide the practice community.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Method: Grounded on previous empirical findings, a structural equation model designed with valid measurement instruments was tested. The study population was registered acute care nurses (N=1201) in two independent hospitals and one hospital group with six hospitals in Belgium.
Results: Nurse practice environment dimensions predicted job outcome variables and nurse ratings of quality of care. Analyses were consistent with features of nurses' work characteristics including perceived workload, decision latitude, and social capital, as well as three dimension of burnout playing mediating roles between nurse practice environment and outcomes. A revised model adjusted using various fit measures explained 52% and 47% of job outcomes and nurse-assessed quality of care, respectively.
Conclusion: The study refines understanding of the relationship between aspects of nursing practice in order to achieve favourable nursing outcomes and offers important concepts for managers to track in their daily work. The findings of this study indicate that it is important for clinicians and leaders to consider how nurses are involved in decision-making about care processes and tracking outcomes of care and whether they are able to work with physicians, superiors, peers, and subordinates in a trusting environment based on shared values. The involvement of nurse managers at the unit level is especially critical because of associations with nurse work characteristics such as decision latitude and social capital and outcome variables. Further practice and research initiatives to support nurses' involvement in decision-making process and interdisciplinary teamwork are recommended.
Keywords: Burnout; Job satisfaction; Nurse practice environment; Nurse retention; Quality of care; Structural equation modelling.
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