Context matters: the impact of unit leadership and empowerment on nurses' organizational commitment

Heather K Spence Laschinger, Joan Finegan, Piotr Wilk
Journal of Nursing Administration 2009, 39 (5): 228-35

OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to test a multilevel model linking unit-level leader-member exchange quality and structural empowerment to nurses' psychological empowerment and organizational commitment at the individual level of analysis.

BACKGROUND: Few studies have examined the contextual effects of unit leadership on individual nurse outcomes. Workplace empowerment has been related to retention outcomes such as organizational commitment in several studies, but few have studied the impact of specific unit characteristics within which nurses work on these outcomes.

METHODS: We surveyed 3,156 nurses in 217 hospital units to test the multilevel model.

RESULTS: A multilevel path analysis revealed significant individual and contextual effects on nurses' organizational commitment. Both unit-level leader-member exchange quality and structural empowerment had significant direct effects on individual-level psychological empowerment and organizational commitment. Psychological empowerment mediated the relationship between core self-evaluations and organizational commitment at the individual level of analysis.

CONCLUSIONS: The contextual effects of positive supervisor relationships and their influence on empowering working conditions at the unit level and, subsequently, nurses' organizational commitment highlight the importance of leadership for creating conditions that result in a committed nursing workforce.

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