Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Healthy Nursing Academic Work Environments

Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Healthy Nursing Academic Work Environments

Article excerpt


Healthy work environments in the nursing academic setting are essential for the recruitment and retention of faculty; they also serve to promote excellence in nursing education. Although the early efforts addressing healthy work environments focused on the clinical practice setting, more recent efforts have also considered the work environment in academic settings. The National League for Nursing has focused on work environments in academia and has published the Healthful Work Environment Tool Kit© that can be used by applicants for faculty positions, current faculty members, and nurse administrators to assess an academic work environment. The tool kit addresses the following nine work-related areas: salaries, benefits, workload, collegial environment, role preparation and professional development, scholarship, institutional support, marketing and recognition, and leadership. These areas are used to frame the discussion of how nursing faculty and administrators can work together to assess and enhance the health of nursing academic workplaces.

Citation: Brady, M., (Jan. 31, 2010) "Healthy Nursing Academic Work Environments" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol. 15, No. 1, Manuscript 6.

DOI: 10.3912/OJIN.Vol15No01Man06

Keywords: Work environments, salaries, benefits, workload, collegial, professional development, support, marketing, recognition, leadership, tool kit, National League for Nursing, NLN

The focus on healthy work environments began in clinical settings with the goals of improving patient safety, enhancing the recruitment and retention of nurses, and promoting excellence in clinical practice. Disch (2002) defined a healthy work environment as "a work setting in which policies, procedures and systems are designed so that employees are able to meet organizational objectives and achieve personal satisfaction in their work" (p. 3). This definition emphasizes the external factors that impact satisfaction; it focuses on those things that are under the influence of the organization. While an individual's inner predisposition to satisfaction is not under the influence of the organization, a component of promoting a healthy work environment does involve hiring individuals who are positive and have the potential to thrive once the proper environment is provided (Brooks et al., 2007).

The work environment is the result of numerous, interrelated factors (Alspach, 2009). The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) has been instrumental in advancing the dialogue regarding healthy work environments as one way to promote excellence in the clinical setting. As part of the initiative to advance healthy work environments, AACN has identified six standards for establishing and sustaining healthy work environments, namely skilled communication, true collaboration, effective decision making, appropriate staffing, meaningful recognition, and authentic leadership (AACN, 2005). The AACN has noted that 'unhealthy' work environments in the clinical setting contribute to "medical errors, ineffective delivery of care, and conflict and stress among health professionals" (p.1), while a 'healthy' work environment is necessary to "ensure patient safety, enhance staff recruitment and retention, and maintain an organization's financial viability" (p.1). These characteristics of unhealthy versus healthy work environments have implications for the nursing academic environment. Hence, it is important for faculty members and administrators to initiate conversations regarding the impact of healthy versus unhealthy environments within the nursing education unit.

The Nursing Organization Alliance (NOA) (2004) drew upon the concurrent work of the American Organization of Nurse Executives (2004) and advocated for nine elements that support a healthy work environment. These elements included a collaborative practice culture; communication rich culture; a culture of accountability; the presence of adequate numbers of qualified nurses; the presence of expert, competent, credible, visible leadership; shared decision making at all levels; the encouragement of professional practice and continued growth/development; recognition of the value of nursing's contribution; and recognition of nurses for their meaningful contribution to practice (NOA, 2004). …

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