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Linking Nurse Leadership and Work Characteristics to Nurse Burnout and Engagement

Lewis, Heather Smith; Cunningham, Christopher J. L.

doi: 10.1097/NNR.0000000000000130

Background Burnout and engagement are critical conditions affecting patient safety and the functioning of healthcare organizations; the areas of worklife model suggest that work environment characteristics may impact employee burnout and general worklife quality.

Objectives The purpose was to present and test a conditional process model linking perceived transformational nurse leadership to nurse staff burnout and engagement via important work environment characteristics.

Methods Working nurses (N = 120) provided perceptions of the core study variables via Internet- or paper-based survey. The hypothesized model was tested using the PROCESS analysis tool, which enables simultaneous testing of multiple, parallel, indirect effects within the SPSS statistical package.

Results Findings support the areas of worklife model and suggest that transformational leadership is strongly associated with work environment characteristics that are further linked to nurse burnout and engagement. Interestingly, different work characteristics appear to be critical channels through which transformational leadership impacts nurse burnout and engagement.

Discussion There are several methodological and practical implications of this work for researchers and practitioners interested in preventing burnout and promoting occupational health within healthcare organizations. These implications are tied to the connections observed between transformational leadership, specific work environment characteristics, and burnout and engagement outcomes.

Heather Smith Lewis, MS, is Institutional Research Analyst II, Georgia Regents University, Augusta, Georgia.

Christopher J. L. Cunningham, PhD, is UC Foundation Associate Professor, Department of Psychology, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Accepted for publication August 31, 2015.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Corresponding author: Christopher J. L. Cunningham, Department of Psychology (#2803), The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, 615 McCallie Avenue, Chattanooga, TN 37403 (e-mail:

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