Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work

Scholarly project

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Nursing




Kathleen Kalb


Healthcare environments need to focus on how to empower and engage staff nurses during these times of decreasing resources and increasing demands to support the creative ability of health care teams to give safe, quality patient care. A review of the literature reveals the factors of structural empowerment, transformational leadership, person-job fit, and personal resources as areas that organizations, leaders, and nurse professional development educators can modify to promote nurse empowerment and engagement. A proposed systems model of nurse empowerment and engagement depicts the relationship between the factors (structure) that promote empowerment and engagement (process) which leads to an increase in nurse-job satisfaction, improved professional performance, and empowered peers and teamwork; which ultimately lead to an increase in quality patient care, empowered and satisfied patients, productivity, positive healthy work environments, effective education of next generation of nurses, high professional standards of nursing practice, and encouragement of lifelong learning (outcomes). These outcomes of excellence re-energize the process of nurse empowerment and engagement, creating a self-generating cycle of positive energy and motivation that is contagious to the healthcare team, and serve as a catalyst that strengthens and renews the healthcare system.

Healthcare organizations are in flux. With the 2010 Affordable Care Act overhauling the healthcare reimbursement system to reward value (Kocher, Emanuel, & DeParle, 2010) it is more important than ever that patients receive quality care. This issue is compounded by the fact that the largest part of the healthcare workforce is registered nurses (RNs) and it is estimated that by 2020 there will be a deficit in RNs by 20% (Buerhaus, Staiger, & Auerbach, 2000). The ongoing nursing shortage coupled with the complex working environments that nurses work in makes it difficult for nurses to remain empowered and engaged. More than 40% of hospital staff nurses score in the high range for job-related burnout, and more than 1 in 5 hospital staff nurses say they intend to leave their hospital jobs within 1 year (Vahey, Aiken, Sloane, Clarke, & Vargas, 2004). So the problem is not only how to retain nurses, but how to help them thrive in the demanding, stressful environments they work in to achieve the desired high quality care the profession and society demands.

With burnout rates so high and demands increasing, nurses must remain motivated and engaged for healthcare organizations and the nursing profession to stay viable, and to keep patient care safe. In these difficult economic times with decreasing overall resources there is a need to work more creatively, but how do emotionally exhausted nurses accomplish this? What are the factors that promote staff nurse empowerment and engagement which transform care at the bedside? The purpose of this paper is to examine the factors that promote staff nurse empowerment and engagement in order to develop strategies for healthcare organizations, leaders, and professional staff nurse educators. It is also the goal of this paper to investigate the role of the nurse professional development (NPD) educator regarding these factors and their implications for nurse empowerment and engagement which ultimately lead to a positive working environment and high quality care.