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Keywords:

  • health services research;
  • managers;
  • nursing leadership;
  • satisfaction;
  • span of control;
  • time studies

meyer r.m., o'brien-pallas l., doran d., streiner d., ferguson-paré m. & duffield c. (2011) Journal of Nursing Management19, 611–622 Front-line managers as boundary spanners: effects of span and time on nurse supervision satisfaction

Aim  To examine the influence of nurse manager span (number of direct report staff), time in staff contact, transformational leadership practices and operational hours on nurse supervision satisfaction.

Background  Increasing role complexity has intensified the boundary spanning functions of managers. Because work demands and scope vary by management position, time in staff contact rather than span may better explain managers’ capacity to support staff.

Methods  A descriptive, correlational design was used to collect cross-sectional survey and prospective work log and administrative data from a convenience sample of 558 nurses in 51 clinical areas and 31 front-line nurse managers from four acute care hospitals in 2007–2008. Data were analysed using hierarchical linear modelling.

Results  Span, but not time in staff contact, interacted with leadership and operational hours to explain supervision satisfaction.

Conclusions  With compressed operational hours, supervision satisfaction was lower with highly transformational leadership in combination with wider spans. With extended operational hours, supervision satisfaction was higher with highly transformational leadership, and this effect was more pronounced under wider spans.

Implications for Nursing Management  Operational hours, which influence the manager’s daily span (average number of direct report staff working per weekday), should be factored into the design of front-line management positions.