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Keywords:

  • burnout;
  • job satisfaction;
  • multilevel modelling;
  • nurse practice environment;
  • nurse retention;
  • quality of care

Aim.  To investigate impacts of practice environment factors and burnout at the nursing unit level on job outcomes and nurse-assessed quality of care in acute hospital nurses.

Background.  Prior research has consistently demonstrated correlations between nurse practice environments and nurses’ job satisfaction and health at work, but somewhat less evidence connects practice environments with patient outcomes. The relationship has also been more extensively documented using hospital-wide measures of environments as opposed to measures at the nursing unit level.

Design.  Survey.

Method.  Data from a sample of 546 staff nurses from 42 units in four Belgian hospitals were analysed using a two-level (nursing unit and nurse) random intercept model. Linear and generalised linear mixed effects models were fitted including nurse practice environment dimensions measured with the Revised Nursing Work Index and burnout dimensions of the Maslach Burnout Inventory as independent variables and job outcome and nurse-assessed quality of care variables as dependent variables.

Results.  Significant unit-level associations were found between nurse practice environment and burnout dimensions and job satisfaction, turnover intentions and nurse-reported quality of care. Emotional exhaustion is a predictor of job satisfaction, nurse turnover intentions and assessed quality of care as well besides various nurse work practice environment dimensions. Nurses ‘ratings of unit-level management and hospital-level management and organisational support had effects in opposite directions on assessments of quality of care at the unit; this suggests that nurses’ perceptions of conditions on their nursing units relative to their perceptions of their institutions at large are potentially influential in their overall job experience.

Conclusion.  Nursing unit variation of the nurse practice environment and feelings of burnout predicts job outcome and nurse-reported quality of care variables.

Relevance to clinical practice.  The team and environmental contexts of nursing practice play critical roles in the recruitment and retention of nurses, and as well as in the quality of care delivered. Widespread burnout as a nursing unit characteristic, reflecting a response to chronic organisational stressors, merits special attention from staff nurses, physicians, managers and leaders.