Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Nursing Intellectual Capital Theory: Implications for Research and Practice

Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

Nursing Intellectual Capital Theory: Implications for Research and Practice

Article excerpt


Due to rising costs of healthcare, determining how registered nurses and knowledge resources Influence the quality of patient care is critical. Studies that have investigated the relationship between nursing knowledge and outcomes have been plagued with conceptual and methodological issues. This has resulted in limited empirical evidence of the impact of nursing knowledge on patient or organizational outcomes. The nursing intellectual capital theory was developed to assist with this area of inquiry. Nursing intellectual capital theory conceptualizes the sources of nursing knowledge available within an organization and delineates its relationship to patient and organizational outcomes. In this article, we review the nursing intellectual capital theory and discuss its implications for research and practice. We explain why the theory shows promise for guiding research on quality work environments and how it may assist with administrative decision-making related to nursing human resource management and continuing professional development.

Keywords: nursing, knowledge, intellectual capital, human capital, structural capital, quality of care, recruitment, retention, work environment, employer support, nurse staffing, continuing professional development, specialty certification, academic preparation, experience, middle-range theory

Increased demands for healthcare in combination with its rising costs have led to a heightened interest to understand how nursing knowledge Influences the quality of care administered to hospitalized patients. As a result, several initiatives are being implemented including changes in nurse staffing and models of care delivery. These changes are creating challenges in terms of knowing the most appropriate nurse staffing patterns to keep patients safe and levels of support for developing the knowledge registered nurses need to achieve the best patient and system outcomes. To address these questions, researchers have primarily focused on trying to understand the relationship between nurse staffing levels and the occurrence of adverse events, such as patient falls (Bleaen & Vaughn. 1998: Bleaen. Vauahn. & Goode 2001J. Although initially ground-breaking, nurse staffing studies have been plagued with conceptual and methodological issues which have limited the applicability to practice and the validity of their results, respectively (Butler et al.. 2012: Clarke & Donaldson. 2008: Spilsbury et al.. 2011J. Specifically, the majority of the nurse staffing studies are atheoretical (Mark et al.. 2004J. Therefore, they do not provide a comprehensive conceptualization of nursing knowledge available within healthcare organizations. As such, the evidence falls short in providing a complete understanding of the availability and the contribution of nursing knowledge within an acute care hospital to patient outcomes. The need to better understand the mechanism through which nursing knowledge influences patients and organizations is important as investing in registered nurses and their knowledge development is cost prohibitive for many healthcare organizations and countries (Phillips. Piza. & Ingram. 2012).

Intellectual capital theory provides for such an understanding and Is the focus of this discussion. The theory of intellectual capital has been adapted to nursing and Is proposed as a guide to research in this area. In this article, we review the parent and nursing theories, summarize empirical evidence, and delineate implications for the use of the theory for research and practice.

Overview of Intellectual Capital

Intellectual capital is the combination of collective knowledge of Individuals and structures In an organization or society (Business Dictionary. 2013T As an intangible organizational asset, intellectual capital includes the knowledge of individual employees or groups of employees who are deemed critical to a company's continued success, and organizational structures that contain information about processes, customers or other Information that contributes to Improved business performance or profits (Dumav. …

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