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An empowerment framework for nursing leadership development: supporting evidence


  • Maura MacPhee,

    1. Maura MacPhee PhD RN Assistant Professor University of British Columbia School of Nursing, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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  • Judith Skelton-Green,

    1. Judith Skelton-Green PhD RN FCCHSE President Transitions-HOD Consultants Incorporated, Penetanguishene, Ontario, Canada and Program Leader Dorothy Wylie Nursing/Health Leaders Institute, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
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  • France Bouthillette,

    1. France Bouthillette DNSc RN Chair School of Nursing, Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada
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  • Nitya Suryaprakash

    1. Nitya Suryaprakash PhD Research Director Leadership Development Logic Model Study, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
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M. MacPhee: e-mail:


macphee m., skelton-green j., bouthillette f. & suryaprakash n. (2012) An empowerment framework for nursing leadership development: supporting evidence. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(1), 159–169.


Aim.  This article is a report on a descriptive study of nurse leaders’ perspectives of the outcomes of a formal leadership programme.

Background.  Effective nurse leaders are necessary to address complex issues associated with healthcare systems reforms. Little is known about the types of leadership development programmes that most effectively prepare nurse leaders for healthcare challenges. When nurse leaders use structural and psychological empowerment strategies, the results are safer work environments and better nurse outcomes. The leadership development programme associated with this study is based on a unifying theoretical empowerment framework to empower nurse leaders and enable them to empower others.

Methods.  Twenty seven front-line and mid-level nurse leaders with variable years of experience were interviewed for 1 year after participating in a formal leadership development programme. Data were gathered in 2008–2009 from four programme cohorts. Four researchers independently developed code categories and themes using qualitative content analysis.

Results.  Evidence of leadership development programme empowerment included nurse leader reports of increased self-confidence with respect to carrying out their roles and responsibilities; positive changes in their leadership styles; and perceptions of staff recognition of positive stylistic changes. Regardless of years of experience, mid-level leaders had a broader appreciation of practice environment issues than front-line leaders. Time for reflection was valuable to all participants, and front-line leaders, in particular, appreciated the time to discuss nurse-specific issues with their colleagues.

Conclusion.  This study provides evidence that a theoretical empowerment framework and strategies can empower nurse leaders, potentially resulting in staff empowerment.

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