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Context Matters: The Impact of Unit Leadership and Empowerment on Nurses' Organizational Commitment

Spence Laschinger, Heather K. PhD, RN; Finegan, Joan PhD; Wilk, Piotr PhD

Journal of Nursing Administration: May 2009 - Volume 39 - Issue 5 - pp 228-235
doi: 10.1097/NNA.0b013e3181a23d2b
Articles

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.

Authors' Affiliations: Distinguished University Professor and Associate Director Nursing Research (Dr Laschinger), Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Western Ontario; Professor (Dr Finegan), Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario; and Scientist (Dr Wilk), Middlesex-London Health Unit, London, Ontario, Canada.

Corresponding author: Dr Laschinger, Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada N6A 5C1 (hkl@uwo.ca).

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.