• nurses;
  • professional relationships;
  • work environments;
  • autonomy;
  • control;
  • health status

Background. Internationally, nursing is facing a variety of challenges including changes in health systems, an ageing workforce and escalating shortages of Registered Nurses. New Zealand is no exception. Here as elsewhere these challenges are taking their toll on the resources and demands of hospital environments, on the health and well-being of nurses themselves and most certainly on the people for whom they care. In the United States of America (USA), three aspects of the nursing work environment – autonomy, control and nurse–physician relations – have been identified as linked to staff retention, levels of staff burnout and needlestick injury, as well as to a range of patient outcomes.

Aim. To examine the New Zealand nursing situation and to see whether aspects of the work environment are associated with health status.

Methods. A total of 225 Registered Nurses in a general hospital completed the Revised Nursing Work Index (NWI-R) and Medical Outcomes Study (MOS) 36-Item Short-Form Health Survey (SF-36).

Results. Ratings indicated that the New Zealand hospital environment was characterized by less autonomy and control and better nurse–physician relations than in USA hospitals. Results of correlations demonstrated that more positive ratings of the three workplace attributes were associated with better health status amongst the nurses. The results of regression analyses were indicative either of a confounding relationship or of a mediating relationship such that nurses' relations with physicians, administration and other departments mediate the associations between autonomy, control and health status.

Conclusions. The study offers an insight into a New Zealand hospital environment and suggests the importance of good relationships with physicians and other departments for the health of nurses.