Since professional nursing moved into the university setting, nursing has struggled to establish, develop, and maintain its credibility in the academic system. This is an age of rapid advances in technology and knowledge, and nursing schools are developing means of coping with these changes, while also dealing with the problems of cost containment (Ginzberg, 1981; Naisbitt, 1984). Additionally, nurse educators are challenged to meet the rigors associated with academic life, and to deal with the conflict engendered by demands from the profession to maintain a clinical expertise. Frequently, it appears that the nurse educator must be all things to all people, and the demands are perceived as overwhelming and conflicting (Fain, 1987; O'Connor, 1978).
Administrators of schools of nursing are challenged today to create an administrative system that facilitates attainment of organizational goals. As part of attaining organizational goals, individual faculty must achieve goals related to the areas of teaching, research, clinical practice, and service. When individual achievements are facilitated, organizational achievements are also enhanced. Today, it is not known how schools of nursing are structured and if the structure of the organization facilitates or stifles individual and organizational attainment of goals. Also, understanding the relationship between the structure of the school of nursing and the organization's climate is limited because of the dearth of studies describing schools of nursing as organizations and exploring the relationship between organizational structure and organizational climate.
Much empirical evidence exists to support the proposition that the organizational climate either facilitates or stifles individual and organizational productivity. Additionally, since descriptive data about schools of nursing as organizations are not available in published works, absence of this data limits understanding of schools of nursing as organizations, particularly in regard to the structure of the organization, its relevance to the climate, and the productivity and satisfaction of organizational members. Little is currently known about organizational climates in schools of nursing and what structural factors are associated with variations in the organization's climate. Therefore, purposes of this study were to describe the organizational structure and climate in two schools of nursing and to explore the relationship between these variables.
An organization's structure is created to expedite the attainment of the organization's goals in an efficient and effective manner. When considering an organization's structure, it is necessary to recognize that organizations are social systems that have both a technical component and a social component. The technical component is comprised of the knowledge necessary to achieve the goals of the organization; the social component encompasses the individuals who function within the organization (French, Kast, & Rosenzweig, 1985; Lawler & Rhodes, 1976). Frequently, the structure of an organization is characterized as following either the dictates of Weber's Bureaucratic Model (1947) or the professional model. Both of these models incorporate the technical and social components to achieve efficiency and effectiveness.
Weber's model of bureaucracy (1947) as an ideal type is structured to exhibit certain characteristics that maximize rational decision-making and administrative efficiency. Characteristics of Weber's model of bureaucracy include a hierarchy of authority and control, specialization of individuals according to competency, formalization of rules, and impersonality of interpersonal relationships (Etzioni, 1964).
An alternative structural model, which is sometimes regarded as a structural modification of Weber's Bureaucratic Model (1947), incorporates a professional orientation. While the professional model of organizational structure is similar in some ways to the bureaucratic model, dramatic differences are also apparent. Similarities between the structural models include an emphasis on technical competence and an impersonal, objective approach to meeting goals and expectations. Differences include a flat structure and individual autonomy, and arise because of the professional individual's need for self imposed control, autonomy in decision-making, and a colleague-oriented reference group (Etzioni, 1964; Weber, 1947).
Individuals operate within a given structure in an attempt to meet varied role expectations associated with multiple roles. Lack of congruency between individuals' needs and organizational demands results in conflict, frustration, and a feeling of failure, while role ambiguity compounds the problem if role requirements are not clearly delineated for each role the individual is expected to fulfill. Feelings of dissatisfaction and anxiety may arise vrithin individuals resulting in a less effective performance. Ultimately, there is an interference in an organization's ability to meet its goals if enough individuals experience role strain due to role ambiguity and role stress (Argyris, 1957; Goode, 1960; Hardy, 1978; Rizzo, House, & Lirtzman, 1970).
Individuals functioning within an organization develop feelings that are positive or negative about the organization. This perception is termed the "organizational climate" and refers to the internal environment of the organization in which people work. The climate is defined as a set of attributes (involvement, peer cohesion, administrative support, autonomy, task orientation, work pressure, clarity, control, and innovation) that are perceived about a particular organization and are induced from the manner by which the organization deals with its members. Work environments have characteristics that distinguish one organization from another, endure over time, and influence the behavior of members of the organization (Forehand & Gilmer, 1964; Hellriegel & Slocum, 1974; Moos, 1981; Tagiuri, 1968). Ultimately, organizational climates either act to facilitate or to stifle individual and organizational goal achievements.
Previous research identifies that the structure of an organization must fit the environment in order to maximize achievement of the organization's goals (Burns & Stalker, 1961; Lawrence & Lorsch, 1986). Lawrence and Lorsch ( 1986) emphasize that every system should be appropriate for its specific set of conditions. Given this, an understanding of how the structure of the organization relates to the environment is necessary and beneficial. With this understanding, schools of nursing can create a structure that is appropriate for the environment and develop a climate that stimulates individual achievement while maintaining individual satisfaction with the organization.
Based on this understanding of organizational structure and climate, the following questions guided this study:
1. To what extent does the organizational structure of selected schools of nursing exhibit the characteristics of the bureaucratic model or the professional model?
2. How do organizational structure and organizational climate interrelate? Of particular interest are the structural dimensions of formalization and centralization.
The Sample of Organizations
Two schools of nursing comprised the sample for this descriptive, comparative study. Two schools of nursing are sufficient to allow for comparison of organizations. Although the small sample size limited generalizability of the findings, the use of multiple methods allowed the collection of various types of data and assured optimal conditions for congruence of data from various sources.
First, a purposive sampling procedure was used to select one state in the southwestern region of the United States. In this state, the dean of each school of nursing offering baccalaureate and master's programs in nursing and accredited by the National League for Nursing (NLN) was invited to participate in a survey designed to facilitate selection of the sample of organizations. Questions were designed to elicit information on the organization's size, degree of centralization, and degree of formalization, so that organizations of comparable size that demonstrated the greatest variance in centralization and formalization could be selected for study. All but one school responded to the survey.
Based on the data returned, the sample of organizations was selected using a purposive sampling procedure in conjunction with identified theoretical structural characteristics (see Table 1). The two organizations selected were comparable in size and represented organizations with the greatest variance in the structural components of centralization and formalization. Both organizations were publicly funded schools of nursing. Organization A was located on an urban university campus, and Organization B was located on an urban university medical center campus.
Choosing two organizations that differed in their structural characteristics of centralization and formalization increased the variability of the sample and enhanced the possibility of achieving an understanding of the school of nursing, given a certain structure. Medium-sized organizations were selected for this study due to conflicting findings in the literature regarding the influence of size on the organizational structure and ciurlate (Blau, Heydebrand, & Stauffer, 1966; Hall, 1963; Porter & Lawler, 1964).
The Sample of Individuals
When agreement to participate in the study was obtained from the dean of the selected schools, all faculty and administrators within each school of nursing were invited to participate in completing a demographic questionnaire and a climate tool derived from the Insel and Moos (1974) Work Environment Scale. Thirty-three faculty and administrators (64%) from Organization A and 36 faculty and administrators (63%) from Organization B elected to participate in the study.
The majority of individuals participating in the study from Organization A identified themselves as faculty (79%), untenured (73%), Assistant Professor rank (31.3%) or other nontenure tract positions (27%), working for the school between 2 and 10 years (58%), having between 2 and 10 years of clinical practice experience (58%), and more than 10 years of teaching experience (58%). While the majority of these individuals identified the master's degree as their highest degree earned (55%), seven (39%) indicated they were currently working on a doctoral degree. A doctorate in education was the degree most frequently identified by those individuals (24%) already prepared at the doctoral level. The mean age of individuals responding from this organization was 46 years.
Descriptors of the majority of participants from Organization B included faculty (78%), untenured (81%), Assistant Professor rank (67%), having between 2 and 10 years of clinical practice experience (61%), and having between 2 and 10 years of teaching experience (56%). It is interesting to note that 42% of the sample indicated they had worked only 1 to 2 years for the school while an additional 47% of participants indicated they had worked between 2 and 10 years for the school. Sixty-one percent of these participants indicated their highest degree earned was a master's degree, and eight individuals (36%) stated they were currently working on attaining a doctoral degree. Of the people with doctorates (39%), the doctor of philosophy (PhD) degree was held by 25% of the respondents. The mean age of respondents from this organization was 42.5 years.
Characteristics Utilized to Select the Sample of Organizations
Twenty percent of the survey respondents from each organization were then selected to participate in a structured interview with the researcher. A purposive sampling procedure was used to select an administrator, a person with both administrative and faculty responsibilities, and faculty for interviews in each organization. Additional criteria used to select individuals for interviews included variance in ranks; attainment of tenure; areas of clinical expertise; age; years of experience in clinical practice, teaching, research, and administration; and educational level of preparation.
Interviews and reviews of selected program documents were obtained during two 3-day site visits conducted at 2- week intervals at each of the schools. Eleven individuals (20%) from Organization A and 13 individuals (23%) from Organization B completed the interview portion of the study. Program documents that were reviewed included the school of nursing catalog, policy and procedure manuals, and the latest NLN accreditation report. Return visits to each organization enhanced confidence in the findings by allowing validation of perceptions and observations gained in the first visit.
Demographic Data Forms
Two types of demographic data forms were used in this study. The first was completed by the investigator and identified organizational data such as numbers of administrators, faculty, and students; type of campus; a description of the physical environment; a diagram of the organizational structure; a description of the types of rules existing for faculty and students; identification of responsibilities associated with each faculty rank; and a description of the committee structure. Data were obtained through review of program documents such as the school of nursing catalog, the policy and procedure manual, and the most recent NLN accreditation report.
The second demographic form was completed by each subject in the study. Data from this form were used to describe the sample of individuals participating in the study, and included information on gender; age; length of time in the current position; length of previous teaching, research, nursing practice, and administrative experiences; educational level; and attainment of tenure status.
Organizational Climate Scale
The Insel and Moos (1974) Work Environment Scale (Form R) was specifically developed to gain an understanding of the social environment of work groups. Each of the 90 items on the original tool focused on an aspect of interpersonal relationships, personal growth/goal orientation, or organizational structure. Subscales assessed involvement, peer cohesion, supervisor support, autonomy, task orientation, work pressure, clarity, control, innovation, and physical comfort. Nine items were associated with each subscale, and subjects determined if each item was true or false. Completion of the tool required approximately 15 minutes.
This instrument has high estimated reliability. Internal consistencies (Cronbach's alpha) for each of the subscales ranged from .69 (peer cohesion) to .86 (innovation). Results of intercorrelations of the subscales indicated that each subscale was distinct from the other subscales, although subscales measured related aspects of work environments (Moos, 1981).
Administration of the tool to various work groups and refinement of the original items provided support for both content and construct validity. Because the subscale means and the standard deviations for the general work groups were similar to the results for the health care work groups, Insel and Moos concluded that the Work Environment Scale results were representative of general work settings (Moos, 1981).
The Insel and Moos (1974) Work Environment Scale was chosen as meaningful for this study because the subscales correlated with the dimensions of climate identified in the conceptualization of the problem. The Work Environment Scale had to be adapted for this study to specifically fit the school of nursing organization and the climate dimensions of this study. The physical comfort subscale was eliminated to conform to the conceptualization of climate used in this study, and the terms "supervisor* and "employee" were changed to reflect the groups using the tool. The subject was asked to respond to each of the 81 items as true or false, and responses within each subscale were summed to obtain a subscale score. Subscale scores then generated an individual and/or group profile describing the climate of the organization.
Prior to use of the climate tool, a pilot test was conducted to establish content validity. After review of the instrument by three experts in organizational theory, suggestions for alterations in the tool were incorporated in order to increase clarity for the subjects. For example, the directions were altered to define the term "work* to include both clinical and classroom experiences. The reviewers concluded that the changes made did not affect the validity of the instrument.
A test of reliability, Cronbach's coefficient alpha, was also done in order to ensure comparable reliability with the original tool. Reliabilities ranged from .65 (clarity) to .86 (innovation). These values were comparable to the reliabilities established for the subscales of the Insel and Moos Work Environment Scale (1974).
A structured interview guide was designed to elicit information about the organizational structure and the climate of the organization. Use of a structured interview guide ensured that every subject was asked the same questions; thus, reliability was increased (Isaac & Michael, 1982). Interviews were conducted in private offices, and subjects were assured that data would be reported as group data to assure confidentiality. Responses were recorded by the investigator rather than taped to further assure the subject of confidentiality. Probes were used to stimulate the subject to expand and/or clarify responses to interview questions (Babbie, 1983). Examples of probes included asking "Anything else?," repeating the subject's response, and stating "Would you tell me a little more about ... ?"
The interview guide contained two sections. The first section included questions related to the structural aspects of centralization and formalization and asked the subject to discuss organizational configuration, numbers of organizational levels, formal and informal routes of information, the decision-making process of the school, and the types and processes associated with organizational rules. The second section of the interview guide included questions related to the organization's climate. Questions were designed to elicit data about interpersonal relationships, reward systems, personal growth, tolerance of conflict, and individual autonomy.
Data analysis consisted of a combination of strategies including content analysis, point biserial correlations, and t tests. Content analysis was used to analyze data obtained from interviews and review of program documents, and quantitative measures were used to analyze data obtained from questionnaires, demographic forms, and a priori categorical interview questions. Data obtained from each school of nursing were analyzed separately before data were compared between organizations. Data derived from multiple sources within an organization were congruent, thus enhancing validity of the findings and yielding greater understanding of the structure and organizational climate in these schools of nursing.
Category Determination for Interview Questions Without A Priori Categories
Content analysis of interview questions without a priori categories involved determining the unit of analysis, developing a set of categories, and developing the rationale and illustrations to code data into the determined categories. Individual words, phrases, or sentences were used to derive categories based on themes appearing in the interview responses to questions about the structure and climate in the school of nursing. An example of derived categories with their definitions and examples of data is illustrated in the Figure. Frequencies of categorical selection were then calculated to describe perceptions of the organization. To ensure consistency in this analysis, both interrater and intrarater reliability were established. Reliability for all items in both cases was 100%.
Results of the Study
Each school of nursing studied exhibited characteristics associated with both the bureaucratic and professional models of organizational structure. Since the professional model is at times regarded as an alternative bureaucratic model, it appears logical that schools of nursing would exhibit characteristics of both models. However, Organization A did exhibit more characteristics of the professional model because of its expectation of individual autonomy in decision-making and use of colleague-oriented reference groups to share authority to make decisions. Organization B more closely resembled the bureaucratic model due to its expectations of hierarchical authority and limited individual autonomy in decision-making.
According to organizational charts, both schools were structured hierarchically, with Organization B having one more level than Organization A. Any differences in the organizational structure related to the degree of bureaucratization within each school. Interview data indicated that Organization A was more apt to make decisions using individual and situational factors, while Organization B tended to develop rules that would apply to any situation regardless of individual or situational factors.
These findings are congruent with previous studies identifying that professionalism increases as centralization and bureaucratization decrease (Blau, Heydebrand, & Stauffer, 1966; Hall, 1968). A higher degree of centralization and formalization limits individual autonomy and forces individuals to be dependent on the person(s) on the next hierarchical level to make and transmit the decision down to the individual concerned to implement the information. Since professionalization of an organization mandates individual autonomy in decision-making and the use of colleague-oriented reference groups to share authority for decisions, it follows that the hierarchy of authority is not appropriate in an organization that desires individuals to share authority and exhibit autonomy for decisions. Thus, the inverse relationship between professionalism and the structural characteristics of centralization and formalization is realistic.
Rules were used within both schools to support the maintenance and operation of the school and to guide the teaching/learning situations. Organization B had almost twice as many rules (n = 31) established for day-to-day maintenance and operation of the school as Organization A (n = 17), but both schools had an equal number of organizational rules (n = 5) established to guide teaching/ learning situations. Examples of rules used to guide day-to-day maintenance and operation of the schools included policies for admission and progression of students through the program (Organizations A and B), grievance procedures for faculty (Organization A) and students (Organizations A and B), criteria for faculty appointment and promotion (Organizations A and B), and a faculty workload policy (Organization A). Examples of organizational rules established to guide teaching/learning situations used by both Organization A and B included policies for classroom and clinical attendance, clinical attire for students, and student clinical evaluation.
Both organizations appeared to strive for impersonality in interpersonal relationships, but Organization B was more attuned to creating rules to govern all situations, expecting individuals to conform to rules, and using sanctions to enforce rules. More individuals from Organization B (n = 23%) than Organization A (n = 18%) indicated that all rules were written. Again, an emphasis on putting rules in writing indicated Organization B's drive to use rules to govern all situations independent of individual and situational factors. To the contrary, Organization A emphasized interaction between faculty and administrators to derive rules and the use of peer pressure and written policy guidelines to enforce rules. Organization A was not driven to derive a new rule to govern each situation that arose, and conflicting responses about the consistency with which rules were enforced indicated that something other than strict adherence to rules was operating within this school of nursing. Thus, Organization B valued impersonality in interpersonal relationships more than Organization A and used rules to control the current specific situation as well as all similar future situations. Organization A used rules as controls also, but responses indicated that both faculty and administrators consistently participated in establishing the control mechanisms, suggesting that self imposed standards of control were used to operate the organization.
A second significant factor in both organizations was the typical communication pathway and the perceptions about an individual's authority to make decisions. Although the formal route of communication was hierarchical according to the organizational chart in both schools, administrators in Organization B were more directly involved in all decisions related to the maintenance and operation of the school, and faculty perceived that they had little autonomy to make independent decisions. Hall (1963) found that authority is the most significant determinant of an organization's degree of bureaucracy, and the findings here also indicated that organizations can be characterized as hierarchical and bureaucratic, yet operate in ways that are counter to the axioms of the bureaucratic model.
The perceptions of the majority of subjects from Organization B (n = 58%) indicated that there was a predominant downward communication path and suggested that administrators participated in making decisions about student admission and retention; did not facilitate faculty involvement in decisions related to faculty appointment, retention, and tenure; and at times created rules without faculty input. It appeared that administrators were heavily involved in making decisions related to the maintenance and operation of the school of nursing, while faculty had little autonomy to make decisions independently. The only areas clearly identified in which faculty in this organization could make independent decisions were the areas of instruction and professional development.
Contrary to this, subjects' responses from Organization A (n = 53%) indicated that the authority to make decisions was shared among many individuals. Perceptions of subjects indicated that a predominant upward communication path existed between faculty and administrators; faculty were responsible for decisions related to admission and retention of students, and decisions related to faculty appointment, retention, and tenure were shared decisions. Thus, a hierarchy of authority did not drive Organization A. Instead, colleague-oriented reference groups, autonomy in decision-making, and self imposed standards of control dominated the operation of this school.
When organizations were compared for differences in perceptions of the organizational climate, Organization A (low centralization and formalization) differed significantly from Organization B (high centralization and formalization) on the dimensions of administrative support, autonomy, work pressure, and control (see Table 2). Perceptions of administrative support and autonomy were described as higher in Organization A, which was structured to more closely resemble the professional model, while perceptions of work pressure and control were described as higher in Organization B, whose structure was more closely aligned with Weber's Bureaucratic Model (1947).
Previous studies have not found significant relationships between organizational structure and organizational climate, but it has been found that esteem, autonomy, and self-fulfillment needs associated with satisfaction are strongly related to organizational climate (Lawler, Hall, & Oldham, 1974). These two organizations differed most significantly in the areas of shared and hierarchical authority and decision-making, suggesting) that an individual's self-esteem and degree of autonomy to make decisions significantly affect the individual's functioning within the structure of an organization. It also appears that the more an individual's needs are fulfilled by functioning within the organizational structure, the greater the individual's satisfaction with the organization and with her or his own performance.
Comparison of Organizational Climate Subscales for Organization A and Organization B
Point Biserial Correlations for Organizational Climate Subscales with Organizational Centralization and Formalization
Significant relationships were identified between the structural characteristics of centralization and formalization and the organizational climate dimensions of autonomy, work pressure, and control. Direct relationships existed between the structural characteristics of centralization and formalization and the climate dimension of work pressure and control, indicating that perceptions of work pressure and control increased as the organization's centralization and formalization increased. An inverse relationship between the structural variables and autonomy signified that perceptions of autonomy increased as the organization's centralization and formalization decreased (see Table 3). While previous studies have identified that autonomy decreases when centralization and formalization increase, the direct relationship found between the dimensions of work pressure and control and the structural dimensions has not been previously identified in pubhshed studies relating to organizational climate (Hall, 1968; Porter & Lawler, 1964; Worthy, 1950). This finding suggests that individuals' perceptions of work pressure and control can be altered by increasing the autonomy of the individual to make decisions within the organization.
While conclusions derived from this study are specifically applicable to the two schools of nursing studied, findings do have implications for administrators and faculty in other schools of nursing. Results from this study present a beginning understanding of the organizational structures and climates that exist within schools of nursing. With this understanding, we can begin to posit new ideas about the productivity and satisfaction of faculty within schools of nursing, based on an understanding of the relationship between the structure of the organization and the organization's climate.
Since the finding identifying the direct relationship between the climate dimensions of work pressure and control and the structural dimensions has not been previously documented, further study needs to be done in this area. Altering the organization's structural configuration so that individuals' perceptions of control and work pressure are lowered might enhance the satisfaction of an individual functioning within the organization and stimulate both creativity and productivity of the individual. As more creative energies are stimulated from a facultative environment, faculty can benefit from reduced role conflict. Thus, organizational goals can be met because faculty are more productive when role conflict is decreased.
Not known from this study is whether faculty and administrators are actually more productive and satisfied when the organizational climate is described as a facilitàrive climate. It does appear that individual perceptions of administrative support, autonomy, and control are especially critical in determining the organization's climate. Further research needs to be done to determine if a facultative organizational climate does have impact on an individual's and organization's productivity. While it is possible that other variables, such as leadership, affect the organization's climate, further research in schools of nursing must be done to determine if structure truly affects the organizational climate. Only by studying schools of nursing as organizations will nurses be able to develop an understanding of the impact of organizational factors on the individual functioning within the school and the resulting effect of an individual's productivity and satisfaction on the education of nursing students and the advancement of nursing knowledge.
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Characteristics Utilized to Select the Sample of Organizations
Category Determination for Interview Questions Without A Priori Categories
Comparison of Organizational Climate Subscales for Organization A and Organization B
Point Biserial Correlations for Organizational Climate Subscales with Organizational Centralization and Formalization