Higher levels of staff nurse engagement are linked with higher levels of patient satisfaction, quality of care and work effectiveness.
But what inspires a healthy level of nurse engagement? A recent study suggests it’s more than the individual nurse.
A nurse manager’s leadership style carries significant weight in the engagement level of a staff nurse, according to a recent study in The Journal of Nursing Administration. Jennifer Manning, DNS, APRN, CNS, CNE, acting associate dean at the Louisiana State University School of Nursing, New Orleans, came to that conclusion after surveying nearly 450 staff nurses at three acute care hospitals.
Specifically, she found leadership styles characterized by nurse manager support and communication (so-called “transformational” and “transactional” leadership styles, to be specific) to be mighty boosters of staff nurse engagement.
A passive-avoidant leadership style, on the other hand, is essentially an engagement killjoy. Staff nurses managed under this approach (or lack thereof) had lower levels of vigor, dedication and absorption.
“Nurse managers who provide support and communication through transformational and transactional leadership styles,” observed Dr. Manning, “can have a positive impact on staff nurse work engagement and ultimately improve organizational outcomes.”
Transformational leadership was the most effective style to promote staff nurse engagement. Managers who fit this relational approach build trust and confidence through personal association with staff. They work to develop a collective sense of values, mission and vision, while still encouraging innovation, autonomy, and voice among staff nurses.
Transactional leadership has both positive and negative effects on staff engagement, the study found. For now, we’ll focus on the positive. Staff nurse engagement is significantly heightened when transactional leaders dole out meaningful rewards for tasks well done. Engagement is also fueled when these types of managers characteristically provide appropriate negative feedback and corrective criticism.
The common inspirational thread among the two approaches? Feedback and communication.
To put it simply, staff nurses are energized by the engagement of their nurse leaders.
Meanwhile, passive elements of leadership styles — whether they qualified as transactional or the even more hands-off “passive-avoidant” approach — have the stifling effect of quelling staff nurse engagement, according to the study. In the workplace, passive nurse management can take several forms: delayed feedback (if any at all), limited communication, disinterest and an overall absence of leadership.
If my nurse manager doesn’t care, a staff nurse might think, why should I bother?
Many staff nurses, it turns out, won’t.
Staff nurse engagement rises with the level of nurse management feedback and support. If managers want their nurses to commit more, they’re going to need to commit themselves to active leadership.
Dr. Manning concludes her study with a suggestion that nurses learn more about transformational leadership, as well as the more active parts of transactional leadership, for the benefit of many.
“The recommendation for practice is for nurse managers to refine their skills as leaders,” she writes. “This can be accomplished through leadership development training, self-assessment, reflection, and mentorship, all of which can have a positive impact on organizational outcomes and can ultimately impact organizational outcomes such as job satisfaction and intent to stay.”