Background: Although the Practice Environment Scale of the Nursing Work Index has been endorsed as a gauge of the quality of the nursing practice environment by several organizations in the United States promoting healthcare quality, there is no literature describing its use in different practice settings and countries.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to inform research by describing the modifications and use of the scale in a variety of practice settings and countries.
Methods: The Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature and the PubMed databases were searched for the years 2002-2010 to identify 37 research reports published since 2002 describing use, modification, and scoring variations in different practice settings and countries.
Results: The scale was modified for 10 practice settings in five countries and translated into three languages. Composite scores ranged from 2.48 to 3.17 (on a 1-4 scale). The Staffing and Resource Adequacy subscale most often scored lowest. A new Nursing Information Technology subscale has been developed. New scoring methods to identify the favorability of practice environments are described. Over time, the nature of the research conducted using the measure has changed. Overall, most publications report significant associations between scale scores and multiple nurse, patient, and organizational outcomes.
Discussion: Scale use is growing across different clinical settings and countries. Recommendations for future research use include reducing scale length, using consistent scoring methods, considering the impact of various modifications on the basis of cultural and clinical setting nuances, and using the measure in longitudinal and intervention research designs.