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How Can Nurse Leaders Impact Organizational Culture in Healthcare Settings?

There is much discussion about the need for improvement in the healthcare industry. Initiatives like Healthy People 2030 and reports like The Future of Nursing illuminate challenges, set goals, suggest policies and provide a roadmap for change in nursing and healthcare. Progress toward many of these goals — such as advancing health equity and more balanced and sustainable work environments — begins mainly with people on the ground.

In nursing, those improvements are often implemented by nurse leaders who create positive organizational cultures that support nurses, improve patient outcomes and drive meaningful change. Millersville University offers an online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nursing Leadership program that equips graduates with the skills to achieve the goals of a healthy organizational culture as a nurse leader.

How Do Nurse Leaders Enhance Workplace Culture?

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended healthcare workplaces, and many organizations continue to struggle with understaffing, retention and the resulting negative impact on patient care quality and employee satisfaction.

Increasingly, nurse leaders are critical in establishing a healthier, more functional workplace and culture. Because nurse leaders have a high-level view of an organization’s needs, they can introduce policies and procedures that consider all angles and focus on the well-being of patients and staff. These changes may result in more significant support for nursing staff, greater employee autonomy, access to resources and the ability to work at the top of their scope of practice. A happier, more capable nursing staff is better prepared to care for patients and address their unique needs.

Although nurse leaders are instrumental in defining an organization’s goals and guiding nurses toward them, nurses are integral to achieving them. However, forward momentum becomes much more difficult when nurses grow exhausted, do not have the tools necessary to do their jobs or are hamstrung by restrictive policies or unsupportive leadership.

According to an October 2022 study in Annals of Medicine and Surgery, nurses with lower job satisfaction provide less efficient care, and care quality suffers as nursing burnout rises. This is a key reason why the latest The Future of Nursing report encourages nurse leaders to prioritize nurses’ health and well-being.

To that end, nurse leaders can advocate for the widespread implementation of evidence-based interventions to support nurses’ mental, physical and emotional health. In addition, nurse leaders can nurture interdisciplinary collaboration in their organizations, restoring trust among healthcare professionals and contributing to a more pleasant and cohesive workplace culture.

Does Workplace Culture Affect Patient Safety and Outcomes?

Whether nurse leaders work with a general patient population or within a specific specialty, they can significantly impact patient safety and outcomes. They can eliminate redundancies within the care cycle, lessening the workload and burnout of nursing staff while improving care quality and cost savings. They can enforce safer patient ratios, ensure nurses receive adequate breaks and lunch periods, and serve as a resource for nurses and other healthcare professionals when questions about treatment or challenging patient scenarios arise.

For example, nurse leaders at the Cleveland Clinic utilize a “just culture decision tree” model to evaluate the circumstances contributing to safety events. Based on a model from the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, nurse leaders use this standardized process to identify practice gaps, interventions and individual training needs. This tactic helps to avoid a “blame game” culture and can reduce or eliminate similar errors in the future.

Earn Your MSN in Nursing Leadership at Millersville University

Millersville University’s online MSN in Nursing Leadership program emphasizes the importance of organizational culture, ethical and comprehensive care, and healthcare leadership.

Students in the program learn foundational skills in nursing care, research, health policy, technology and more. Graduates can excel in the role of nurse leader, impact an organization’s culture and create supportive, positive work environments for their nursing teams.

Learn more about Millersville University’s online MSN – Nursing Leadership program.

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