• long-term illness;
  • nurse–patient relationships;
  • nurses;
  • patient participation;
  • postoperative care;
  • self-efficacy;
  • therapeutic relationships



To explore the trajectory of associations between the nursing care process of patient empowerment during postsurgical hospitalization and postdischarge patient self-management outcomes, specifically patient activation and functional health status.


Patient-centred care models advocate for patient empowerment in long-term illness care. Postsurgical patients with life-threatening long-term illnesses frequently feel powerless, have unmet needs, decreased functional health status and high readmission rates; however, previous studies of patient empowerment have conceptualized empowerment as an outcome primarily in outpatient settings, with little attention paid to provider processes used to empower patients during hospitalizations.


A non-experimental, prospective, correlational study.


This sample consisted of 113 postsurgical cancer and cardiac patients enrolled between August 2012–February 2013. Patient perceptions of patient-empowering nurse behaviours and baseline patient activation were measured prior to discharge. Patient activation and functional health status were measured 6 weeks following discharge. Data were analysed with multiple linear regression using a simultaneous equation approach.


Patients reported high perceptions of patient-empowering nurse behaviours and patient activation levels. Functional health status scores were below population norms. Patient perceptions of empowering nurse behaviours were positively associated with postdischarge patient activation, which was positively associated with mental functional health status. Length of stay was the only significant predictor of physical functional health status.


This study provides further quantitative evidence supporting the relationship between quality nursing care and postdischarge patient outcomes. Intentional use of patient-empowering nurse behaviours could lead to improved patient activation and functional health status in postsurgical patients with life-threatening long-term illnesses.