Fewer hospital-acquired infections, a reduced number of diagnostic errors, and a drop in patient falls — recent research in the International Journal for Quality in Health Care found a direct correlation between these patient safety outcomes and highly engaged nurses. Clearly, nurse engagement has profound implications for health care delivery.
So what does it take to improve nurse engagement, increase health equity, and drive positive change in the health care industry? The right leadership and supportive workplace environments have a big role to play. By pursuing an advanced nursing education, nurse leaders can equip themselves with the knowledge and skills needed to build environments that help nurture nurses’ commitment and dedication to their patients.
What Is Nurse Engagement?
Nurse engagement refers to the degree to which nurses are emotionally invested in and committed to their work and their organization. Engaged nurses exhibit a sense of purpose in their jobs and feel valued and supported by their employers. They often go above and beyond their basic duties, provide compassionate care, and contribute to a positive work environment.
Several factors can drive nurse engagement, but effective leadership is a particularly important one. Strong nurse leaders can create environments that empower nurses to participate in decision-making processes and take ownership of their work. These leaders also provide their nursing staff with clear communication, support, and recognition. Such behaviors foster engagement among nurses and can improve their job satisfaction and levels of motivation.
Professional development opportunities can also increase nurse engagement. When nurses have access to ongoing education, training, and career advancement opportunities, including the benefits of earning a DNP, they tend to feel empowered. Professional development allows nurses to enhance their skills, stay up to date with best practices, and grow as nursing professionals.
Additionally, advocacy plays a significant role in nurse engagement. Advocacy involves speaking up for patients’ rights, promoting health equity, and influencing health care policies and practices. Engaged nurses who are advocates for their patients and the nursing profession contribute to positive changes in the health care system, which, in turn, can help them feel a deeper connection to their work.
Nurse leaders can implement various strategies to drive greater engagement among their staff including:
- Regularly soliciting nurse feedback
- Keeping channels of communication open
- Rewarding exceptional performance
- Fostering a culture of teamwork
- Promoting a positive work-life balance
Health care organizations can measure nurse engagement in a number of ways. For example, they can use employee engagement surveys that assess factors such as job satisfaction, commitment, and willingness to recommend the organization as a workplace. Organizations can also look to absenteeism and turnover rates as indicators of engagement levels within a nursing workforce.
Tracking and analyzing these metrics can help nurse leaders identify areas that may require improvement as well as determine which interventions will be most effective in improving nurse engagement in the future.
Examples of Nurse Engagement Initiatives
Nurse engagement initiatives can play a crucial role in improving a nursing work environment. These initiatives can both empower nurses and contribute to the overall improvement of patient care. Examples of these programs include:
Mentorship programs pair experienced nurses with novice nurses to provide new nurses with someone to turn to for guidance and help in navigating their roles. Such programs not only facilitate the transfer of expertise; they also promote professional development. Mentoring relationships encourage engagement by creating a supportive environment in which nurses can learn, grow, and gain confidence in their abilities.
Involvement in research activities allows nurses to contribute to advancements in their field and generate new knowledge. In addition to fostering critical thinking skills, this type of work encourages innovation and can enhance professional satisfaction among nurses — increasing their levels of engagement.
The expertise of nurses allows them to influence health care legislation in meaningful ways. Initiatives that involve nurses in policy discussions and development empower nurses to become advocates for patients’ rights and provide vital insights based on their front-line experiences. These activities can enhance nurses’ feelings of purpose and positively affect their level of engagement.
Nurse Engagement and Health Equity
Enhanced nurse engagement can profoundly affect health equity in a community. Engaged nurses focus on providing patient-centered care. By actively involving patients in their care decisions and tailoring interventions to each patient’s unique needs and preferences, nurses help ensure all patients have a fair opportunity to attain their highest level of health.
Engaged nurses also recognize the importance of effective communication, which helps them better understand their patients’ perspectives, clearly communicate health information, and effectively advocate for their patients’ rights. Additionally, engaged nurses tend to develop a broad understanding of diverse cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and practices. This enables them to provide culturally sensitive care and eliminate barriers that may contribute to health disparities among different populations.
Finally, engaged nurses actively collaborate with patients, families, and other health care professionals in interdisciplinary care teams. This collaborative approach ensures that health care decisions are made collectively, taking patients’ preferences into account and addressing their unique social and cultural perspectives.
One way clinical leaders can improve health equity is by building diverse nursing teams. Diverse nursing teams bring unique perspectives, experiences, and cultural competencies to health care settings.
Nurses from diverse backgrounds may better understand and address the cultural, linguistic, and social factors that influence their patients’ health outcomes. Additionally, patients often feel more comfortable when receiving care from providers who share their cultural backgrounds or have similar life experiences.
This can translate into increased engagement with patients from marginalized or underserved communities and better adherence to health care recommendations.
Promoting Cultural Competency and Health Literacy
By promoting cultural competency and health literacy, nurses can help bridge gaps in health care access, quality, and outcomes among diverse populations. Cultural competency refers to the ability to understand, respect, and effectively respond to the cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients. Health literacy, on the other hand, refers to people’s ability to obtain, understand, and apply health information to make informed decisions about their health care.
One way nurses promote cultural competency is by developing an understanding of their own beliefs and biases. This self-awareness can enable nurses to approach patients from diverse backgrounds with respect and sensitivity.
Nurses may also incorporate cultural assessments into their practices to promote cultural competency. This involves gathering information about patients’ cultural backgrounds, beliefs, and preferences and using it to tailor care plans.
Regarding health literacy, nurses can reduce disparities by making health information more accessible. Ways to do this include:
- Speaking in clear and plain language when providing health information to patients
- Using visual aids or written materials at appropriate reading levels
- Confirming patients’ understanding
Nurses should be aware of potential health literacy barriers, such as limited reading skills, low health knowledge, or cultural beliefs that may affect their patients’ understanding and adherence to health care recommendations.
The Influence of Nurse Engagement on Patient Outcomes
Nurse engagement directly influences the quality and effectiveness of patient care. Numerous studies have indicated that motivated and committed nurses invested in their work improve patient outcomes in a range of ways from fewer hospital readmissions to more effective pain management.
These improved patient outcomes come about through several practices engaged nurses excel in such as patient education and care coordination. For example, engaged nurses make sure to educate patients about their conditions, treatment options, and self-care practices. When patients understand their health situations and are aware of the risks and benefits associated with different treatment options, they can make choices that align with their values and preferences. This makes them more likely to follow medical advice and have better health outcomes.
A study published in Risk Management and Healthcare Policy highlights why patient education matters. Researchers found that only about 1 in 3 patients have adequate health literacy. However, health literacy was positively associated with self-care and health management. Overall, the study emphasizes health education’s crucial role in improving self-care and the importance of tailoring health education to individual patient needs, which is something engaged nurses tend to do very effectively.
Engaged nurses also excel at care coordination, which helps ensure the overall continuity and quality of the care patients receive. For example, in a primary care setting, engaged nurses may collaborate with community health workers and social workers to develop patients’ care plans. This may involve coordinating appointments and facilitating communication with other providers to prevent gaps in care and delays in treatment.
Nurse-Led Initiatives That Can Drive Positive Outcomes
Nurse-led initiatives exemplify the impact of nurse engagement on patient outcomes. These programs respond to specific health care challenges and needs. They may vary in scope and focus, but they all share the common goal of enhancing patient care and promoting better health outcomes.
Examples of such nurse-led initiatives include:
Medication reconciliation refers to the process of providing accurate and comprehensive medication lists for patients transitioning between different health care settings. Engaged nurses take the initiative to meticulously review and reconcile patients’ medication regimens.
By collaborating with patients, caregivers, and other health care providers, they identify discrepancies and resolve medication errors. This diligent approach helps prevent adverse drug effects, enhance medication adherence, and improve patient outcomes.
Engaged nurses demonstrate a compassionate and holistic approach to patient care, particularly in the context of palliative care. They prioritize patients’ physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being, providing comfort, symptom management, and support to patients with serious illnesses. Through palliative care initiatives, nurses can improve patients’ quality of life, help them maintain their dignity, and facilitate peaceful end-of-life experiences for them.
Help Drive Positive Change in Health Care
Nurse engagement not only drives better patient care but also translates into greater job satisfaction and fulfillment for the nurses themselves. Nurses inspired to take on the challenge of improving health equity and patient health outcomes can explore the benefits of earning an advanced nursing degree.
Discover how Regis College’s online Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to Doctor of Nursing Practice program prepares nurses to lead effective nursing teams and promote greater engagement.