The Dire Case for Promoting Supportive Nursing Environments

A recent study conducted across 535 hospitals in four states between 2005 and 2016 revealed the growing divide between hospitals work environment scores. The study surveyed both nurses and patients in an effort to analyze the extent to which nursing environments affect patient care. And while the effects of nurse satisfaction on patient safety have gained attention in recent years, many hospitals still have a long way to go in terms of improving the conditions surrounding their nursing teams.
How do unit conditions affect nurses’ abilities to perform the duties of their role?
This is evidenced by the fact that a 2017 survey revealed that almost half of nurses reported that they were considering leaving the profession altogether with two-thirds of those citing workplace burnout and staffing shortages. More often than not, the ramifications of staffing shortages and overworked employees seem obvious. However, the impact of these conditions on nurses’ abilities to perform the duties of their roles is highlighted by the fact that nurses were forced to leave what they were working on to troubleshoot issues stemming from understaffing or operational shortcomings once an hour on average. And while an average of once an hour might not seem overwhelming, that comes to a total of 36 times per work week that the average nurse is unnecessarily taken away from the bedside which can have a significant aggregate effect on job performance1.
What are the implications for patient care?
Similarly, nurses are not the only ones who feel the effects of operational shortcomings. Hospitals that received favorable workplace ratings by nurses also saw an 11% increase in how favorably patients rated them as well as an 8% increase in how likely patients reported they would be to recommend that facility to a friend. To add to that, the full-circle effects of positive nursing work environments are further evident in that nurses at those same facilities also rated the quality of patient care 15% higher than they had in the years prior whereas nurses working in unfavorable environments reported a 19% decline in quality of care. And while unfortunately, there are no quick fixes for the operational challenges many hospitals are facing today, nurse leaders are uniquely positioned to help promote positive working conditions within their units that allow nurses to provide the level of care they strive for1.
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