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Staff Nurse Empowerment in Line and Staff Organizational Structures for Chief Nurse Executives

Matthews, Sue DPH, MHScN, RN; Spence Laschinger, Heather K. PhD, RN; Johnstone, Lynne PhD, RN

Journal of Nursing Administration: November 2006 - Volume 36 - Issue 11 - p 526-533

Objective: The authors tested a model linking chief nurse executive (CNE) organizational structures (line and staff) to staff nurse perceptions of workplace empowerment in 2 large Canadian hospitals.

Background: Kanter's theoretical constructs of empowerment (ie, access to information, support, resources and opportunity, and formal and informal power) were used to explore this phenomena. No published studies were found linking organizational structure to staff nurse empowerment.

Methods: Staff nurses (n = 256) were surveyed in 2 large teaching hospitals, one with a CNE in a line structure, the other with a CNE in a staff structure. Multiple regression analysis was used to test the proposed model.

Results: Staff nurses with a CNE in a line structure felt significantly more empowered in their access to resources than nurses with a CNE in a staff structure. Kanter's empowerment structures explained 63% of the variance in nurses' global empowerment in a line structure and 42% in the staff structure. Access to information, resources, and formal power was an important predictor of nurses' global empowerment in the line hospital, whereas only access to support was a significant predictor in the staff hospital.

Conclusion: Support for the model tested in this study highlights the importance of the CNE in creating and sustaining healthy work environments for nurses.

Authors' affiliations: Provincial Chief Nursing Officer (Dr Matthews), Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Professor and Associate Director of Nursing Research (Dr Laschinger), School of Nursing, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada; Doctor of Public Health Course Coordinator (Dr Johnstone), School of Public Health, Charles Sturt University, Bathurst, Australia.

Corresponding author: Dr Matthews, Nursing Secretariat, 12th Floor, 56 Wellesley Street West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S 2S3 (

© 2006 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.