Nurses are the backbone of healthcare. They continuously provide care on the front lines, provide a multitude of essential functions, and tirelessly work to better the lives of their patients. A survey found that nursing is one of the most trusted professions by the public. In fact, 82% of the respondents rated the honesty and ethical standards of nurses ‘high/very high’.
Even though nurses are highly esteemed by their peers and the public, a large number of them suffer from disengagement and job dissatisfaction. The feeling of powerlessness is prevalent among nurses who perceive that they are unable to act autonomously or have a voice on the policies that affect them. Nursing is no longer simply about bedside manner and medical intervention. It is about building relationships within the entire care team and empowering them so they can deliver the best patient-centered care.
There are several compelling reasons to empower nurses. Empowered nurses possess highly effective conflict resolution skills, understand nursing ethics, and maintain open communication with the entire healthcare team. Further, a culture of empowerment among nurses decreases the length of hospital stays and improves overall patient outcomes. With both nurses’ job satisfaction and patient satisfaction go hand-in-hand, it is imperative to focus on empowering nurses so they can do what they do best -- care for patients.
Here are some strategies for nurse empowerment.
Give Nurses a Voice
A key attribute to burnout in nurses’ job dissatisfaction is that they often feel underrepresented in the organization and in their role in patient care. As frontline caregivers, nurses have direct knowledge of the practices that drive patient satisfaction. They need to be empowered so they can voice these insights to administrators. One simple way to give nurses a voice is to actively seek them out for their feedback.
"Empowerment is about how you design the infrastructure or a system where the voice of the nurse can be heard," says Martie Moore, RN, CNO of Mundelein, Ill.-based Medline Industries. "Empowerment is…creating that culture of safety where people feel they can speak up in a professional, respectful manner, or share their concerns to where you're able to hear each other and listen to each other in a mutual and respectful way." Further, Ms. Moore says that this type of empowerment allows nurses to grow their own personal practices and advance in their learning.
Give Nurses Control
A nurses’ perception that he/she has control over the professional practice, processes, and care given at work promotes engagement and empowerment. Studies have found that active participation in organization decision-making has been found to be connected to higher levels of work efficiency and decreased levels of exhaustion. When nurses are given the power to meet patient's needs as they see fit, you will have more actively engaged nurses and patients.
As interim dean of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Capella University, Christy Davidson said, “Patients can tell the difference when hospitals empower nurses.” With 3.5 million nurses in the United States, they have a substantial amount of influence over clinical outcomes and patient satisfaction. At the end of the day, empowered nurses lead to increased job satisfaction, higher levels of organizational commitment, and most important -- increased patient satisfaction.