Shared governance in the academic setting depends on understanding job satisfaction, empowerment, and engagement. It is widely accepted that shared governance enhances work experience, nursing practice, and patient outcomes within the service and practice arenas (Joseph & Bogue, 2016). However, little evidence can be found about the application of a true shared governance model within academia in which shared governance affects every level of the organization. The models of shared governance identified in the literature represent a decision-making body composed of a set number of faculty, as opposed to a true shared governance model in which all members of the faculty and staff contribute. According to Porter-O'Grady (2001), shared governance is defined as empowerment and the processes to support that empowerment, and the resulting shared decision making is essential in nursing. Although Porter-O'Grady's seminal work on shared governance focused on nursing practice and did not specifically address academia, the components of shared governance are relevant to both arenas in that the worldview of nurses is heavily influenced by nursing practice.
A healthy work environment is one of the most important factors influencing staff and employee satisfaction across work settings and has contributed to overall enhanced organizational performance in the health care setting (Brady, 2010; Disch, 2002). A healthy work environment can be defined as a setting in which policies and guidelines promote employee attainment of organizational objectives and personal work satisfaction through mutual respect, effective communication, common goals, and a commitment to the team (Brady, 2010; Disch, 2002). The American Association of Critical Care Nurses, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), the International Council of Nurses, the Institute of Medicine, and the Nursing Organization Alliance are examples of organizations that have identified key characteristics of a healthy work environment in health care settings, such as a culture of accountability, collaborative practice, and shared decision making (Brady, 2010; Sherman & Pross, 2010). The National League for Nursing (NLN) adapted the healthy work environment characteristics identified by the Nursing Organization Alliance for schools of nursing (Brady, 2010). Each of these documents provides insight into the necessary characteristics for shared governance.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN, 2002) identified eight hallmarks of the practice setting that could be used to inform nurses, nursing students, new graduates, nurse educators, and administrators about essential concepts promoting professional nursing practice and allowing nurses to perform to their full potential. These hallmarks include the following:
- Manifestation of “quality, safety, interdisciplinary collaboration, continuity of care, and professional accountability.” (para. 2)
- Recognition of nursing's contributions to quality care and outcomes.
- Promotion of nursing executive leadership.
- Empowerment of nurses in decision making.
- Maintenance of clinical advancement programs.
- Support for professional development.
- Creation of collaborative interprofessional teams.
- Utilization of technological advances.
Using findings from a satisfaction survey of nursing faculty employed in institutions of higher learning across the United States, the NLN (2003) extended the ideas of a healthy work environment into the nursing academic setting. For nursing faculty, a healthy work environment takes into consideration salaries, benefits, workload, collegial environment, role preparation and professional development, scholarship, institutional support, marketing and recognition, and leadership (Brady, 2010). Collegial environment, institutional support, and leadership are areas that appeared to overlap with constructs of shared governance and have driven nurses to more closely examine the literature for studies explicating the intersection of a healthy work environment and shared governance. These three concepts (i.e., job satisfaction, empowerment, and work engagement) can be broken down at a micro level to provide the basis for developing a culture of shared governance and to promote these concepts for all employees within an organization. The idea of breaking down these concepts is further supported by an emphasis in shared governance on “a dynamic staff–leader partnership that promotes collaboration, shared decision making and accountability for improving quality of care, safety, and enhancing work life” (Vanderbilt University Medical Center, n.d., para. 2).
With the advent of the ANCC Magnet status, shared governance has become the hallmark of a healthy work environment in quality-driven hospitals in the United States and around the world (Porter-O'Grady, 2004). Although the ANCC Magnet criteria do not expressly require a shared governance structure, shared governance is the most frequently implemented model to demonstrate oversight of professional nursing activities and patient care delivery (Porter-O'Grady, 2004). The views of shared governance within the context of hospital systems guided the creation of a definition of shared governance for the academic nursing work environment (Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center [TTUHSC], 2013; Vanderbilt University Medical Center, n.d.). From the perspective of an academic organization, shared governance was defined as a structure that fosters collaboration, shared decision making, equity, ownership, and accountability among faculty and staff in support of advancing the quality of the academic learning environment (TTUHSC, 2013, 2014).
The NLN recommendations related to a healthy work environment for nursing faculty do not address staff members at schools of nursing who play an essential role in supporting the functions of nurse educators. Kramer and Schmalenberg (2002) revealed the essential role that staff members play in determining the success of initiatives implemented to improve the health of a work environment. Recognition of the potential benefit of a faculty and staff shared governance model, in which job satisfaction, empowerment, and work engagement of all members of the team are valued, is likely to contribute to the enhanced health of an academic organization and improved outcome measures for all stakeholders.
To achieve a healthy work environment within a school of nursing, administrators need to understand the foundational concepts of shared governance and the critical indicators of workplace health. This article presents a review of literature to assess the current body of knowledge in an effort to draw evidence of the impact of job satisfaction, empowerment, and work engagement as components of a faculty and staff shared governance model within a school of nursing and their impact on the development of a healthy work environment.
A literature review was completed during the fall semester of 2014. This review acquired references from PubMed® (from 1975 to 2014), along with manuscripts found within the reference lists of the selected articles. The keywords used in the search were job satisfaction, empowerment, work engagement, and shared governance. The abstracts were reviewed to ensure that selected articles addressed the identified focus for the study. Of the 40 articles initially identified, 27 articles were found to meet the literature criteria and were included in the literature review. Twenty-five of the articles were published between 1995 and 2014. Two of the articles were published in 1975 and 1993, respectively. The review of the articles was conducted by two members of the team. The articles were divided between the two members, who conducted their assessment independently. Within each of the articles selected, grading was conducted based on the Rating System for the Hierarchy of Evidence (Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt, 2014). The team members assessed the quality of the material provided, along with information related to work engagement, job satisfaction, and empowerment within a shared governance framework.
Following the completion of the review, all of the selected articles were framed within an evidence synthesis table (Melnyk & Fineout-Overholt, 2014) to provide consistency for review. Six of the articles were found to be informational articles (Burkman, Sellers, Rowder, & Batcheller, 2012; Fujita, Harris, Johnson, Irvine, & Latimer, 2009; Moody, 1996; Nolan, Wary, King, Laam, & Hallick, 2011; Stewart, NcNulty, Quinn Griffin, & Fitzpatrick, 2010; Winslow et al., 2011). Four articles were meta-analysis or systematic reviews (Gormley, 2003; Jaros, 2007; Meyer, Stanley, Herscovitch, & Topoinytsky, 2002; Twigg & McCullough, 2014). Seventeen of the articles were the report of a research study on one or more of the identified aspects being considered (Baker, Fitzpatrick, & Griffin, 2011; Cho, Laschinger, & Wong, 2006; Disch, Edwardson, & Adwan, 2004; Hackman & Oldham, 1975; Hoying & Allen, 2011; Johnson, 2009; Kuokkanen, Leino-Kilpi, & Katajisto, 2003; Laschinger, Finegan, Shamian, & Wilk, 2001, 2004; Leggat, Bartram, Casimir, & Stanton, 2010; Meyer, Allen, & Smith, 1993; Moody, 1996; Moore & Wells, 2010; Sarmiento, Laschinger, & Iwasiw, 2004; Snarr & Krochalk, 1996; Spreitzer, 1995; Suzuki et al., 2009).
The primary type of article targeted in this search were reports of research studies examining shared governance in the academic environment. No articles that met this aim were found, as the vast majority of articles related to nursing and shared governance were focused on practice settings. An exhaustive search was also conducted in the Education Resources Information Center (ERIC™) database; however, in the six identified articles from ERIC, the focus was on the concept of engagement, job satisfaction, or a governance system/coordinating body rather than shared governance (Abu-Nair, 2015; DeBoy, 2015; Fitzgerald, Bruns, Sonka, Furco, & Swanson, 2016; Kirby, 2007; Moule, 2006; Toth & McKey, 2010). The lack of congruence in the definition of shared governance shaped by nursing practice and shared governance in general academia made the findings of studies less relevant to designing a model for a nursing academic setting. Therefore, the search was expanded to include theory-based articles addressing nursing academic shared governance. Three concepts from these reviews consistent with the presence of shared governance were identified as job satisfaction, empowerment, and work engagement. Each article was carefully examined to identify the thoughts, tenets, and perceptions concerning job satisfaction, empowerment, or work engagement related to shared governance. Conceptual articles and research reports connecting shared governance with the concepts of job satisfaction, empowerment, and work engagement were located (Baker, Fitzpatrick, & Griffin, 2011; Johnson, 2009; Moody, 1996; Snarr & Krochalk, 1996). An article was found discussing job satisfaction, empowerment, and work engagement related to nursing populations and academic settings without the direct link to shared governance (Sarmiento et al., 2004). The concepts identified within the process of shared governance are embraced by academia but not acknowledged as shared governance.
Work Engagement Considerations
Seventeen of the 27 articles addressed the concept of work engagement. A primary focus of these 17 articles was on the quantitative measurement of work engagement or conceptually defining work engagement. Conceptually, work engagement was defined as a decentralized structure with representation and an open, participatory style of management (Twigg & McCullough, 2014). This definition was further explicated through examination of criterion-related validity of specific work engagement measures (Twigg & McCullough, 2014). Shared governance and work engagement are associated when work is accomplished synergistically (Burkman et al., 2012; Disch et al., 2004). Effective communication emerges as an integral aspect for success in the discussion related to work engagement. Improving the communication interactions allows for the effective management of the work environment (Moore & Wells, 2010; Winslow et al., 2011). Along with the communication aspects, marketing of the methods for involvement by staff was needed to help with the education of staff (Moore & Wells, 2010). Communication was viewed as paramount for improving any work activities.
Suzuki et al. (2009) found that work effectiveness is improved when individuals have access to opportunities and information related to visibility, innovation, flexibility, and critical and creative thinking skills. Many of the articles equate work engagement with the term work effectiveness. Another idea presented in several articles was the expectation that organizational support was mandatory for effective work engagement to occur (Burkman et al., 2012; Meyer et al., 2002; Sarmiento et al., 2004). Organizational support of workers was viewed as significant and crucial for the working of an association. Jaros (2007) identified three simultaneous mindsets that supported organizational commitment. The three mindsets were classified as (a) affective (i.e., emotional attachment and involvement), (b) normative (i.e., sense of obligation), and (c) continuance (i.e., employees' awareness of costs associated with leaving the organization). Each of these mindsets are critical when investigating organizational support to completely appreciate the full scope of the different shared governance within an organization.
Aspects that surfaced within the articles related to work engagement are the need to eliminate waste and redundancy, development of a decentralized structure with representation, open participatory management, shared values and culture, manageable workloads and job demands, and clear roles and expectations (Nolan et al., 2011; Twigg & McCullough, 2014). Moore and Wells (2010) discussed the advantages of using shared governance to advance work engagement through the effective use of communication, management of the councils, and coaching of the staff to ensure success. Moore and Wells (2010) identified that a major factor for success of shared governance is the expectation that each council (i.e., committee) has solid, consistent clerical support to manage the activities conducted by the councils.
Empowerment was recognized in 21 of the 27 reviewed articles. Burkman et al. (2012) articulated the idea that staff dialogue within the organization is mandatory to advocate for concerns regarding empowerment. Along with these ideas of advocacy, meticulous planning, hard work, strong commitment, a voice in decision making, and open flow of information are key aspects inherent in an organization for the individuals to declare empowerment within the work environment.
Spreitzer (1995) set forth a conceptual definition for empowerment. The definition speaks to four cognitive areas—meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact. It was found that the lack of one of these cognitive areas did not negate empowerment but was found to deflate the level of empowerment.
Fujita et al. (2009) documented the need for secretarial support within the application of empowerment. Other aspects identified were the expectation for ongoing education and effective communication throughout the organization (Disch et al., 2004), along with collaboration with key individuals within the agency. These aspects were identified as key for improving the commitment to empowerment of the staff.
Suzuki et al. (2009) classified empowerment into two areas—structural and psychological. Structural empowerment was viewed as opportunities, information, resources, and support aspects. Psychological empowerment provided organization for meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact. As each of these empowerment facets were investigated, the sought after outcome was increased recognition for the importance and caring aspects of the individuals involved.
Several articles mounted a defense for using empowerment to positively influence job satisfaction and the quality of patient care within a high-performance work system (Cho et al., 2006; Hoying & Allen, 2011; Kuokkanen et al., 2003; Laschinger et al., 2004; Leggat et al., 2010; Sarmiento et al., 2004). As health care providers perceive increased empowerment within their work environment, job satisfaction is affected, along with the manner in which patients are engaged. Within this idea of improvement, lack of empowerment was found to result in burnout symptoms, such as emotional exhaustion and depersonalization (Sarmiento et al., 2004). When empowerment is not perceived and acknowledged by the staff, negative aspects can begin to develop within an organization. Johnson (2009) explained that the organizational culture was found to have a moderate impact on faculty empowerment. The culture and environment found within the organization is a key aspect for the faculty's ideas about empowerment. Nolan et al. (2011) identified three themes regarding empowerment, including Identifying the Work to be Done, Delineating the Roles to be Completed, and Supporting Meaningful Communication Between Individuals. Each of these three themes provide the framework for what can be used to advance empowerment within an organization.
Job Satisfaction Considerations
Twenty-one of the 27 reviewed articles communicated different aspects related to job satisfaction. Burkman et al. (2012) determined that job satisfaction was enriched by expanding the succession planning process, enhancing leadership growth opportunities, advancing collaboration activities, and augmenting mentoring prospects. These items provided support and encouragement for nurses endeavoring to advance within the job environment.
Stewart et al. (2010) ascertained that workplace conditions, salaries, workload, and overtime expectations were key to addressing job satisfaction issues. Each of these items contributes to the individual's sense of value within the work environment. Suzuki et al. (2009) supported these ideas through a discussion related to empowerment, specifically in the area of structural empowerment. Hackman and Oldham (1975) included the idea of motivation within this discussion about concepts that improve job satisfaction. By adding enthusiasm and stimulus to the workplace, the individual recognizes the support that is available for their advancement. Laschinger et al. (2004) further clarified the idea of job satisfaction by incorporating stability within the work environment. When staff understand that the work environment is consistent, the stressors that come from uncertainty are minimized. Kuokkanen et al. (2003) provided additional explanation by identifying three common denominators that nurses value in the area of job satisfaction. The three areas are (a) factors inherent in work environment (e.g., social integration, communication, management styles), (b) professional factors (e.g., autonomy, organizational policies, pay), and (c) factors involved in patient care (e.g., expertise and rewarding interactions). Each of these denominators can be integrated with workplace conditions, salaries, workload, overtime, and motivation, which are paramount for increasing job satisfaction.
Leggat et al. (2010) acknowledged that the perceptions held by the staff related to training, hiring, teams, decentralized decision making, and transparency concerning communication are vital to position job satisfaction and quality health care. When transformational leadership is noted, nurses appreciate and acknowledge the shared governance mindset and enhanced empowerment that is present. Meyer et al. (2003) provided support for this idea when they found a strong correlation between affective commitment and overall job satisfaction. When the organization strives to understand and manage the employees' behavior in a positive and supportive manner with open communication, the overall job satisfaction is enriched. Myers et al. (2013) used a qualitative framework to identify indicators influencing nurse satisfaction. They found that interprofessional communication, professional development, support from senior staff, and role clarity were key to reducing absenteeism and attrition rates. Each of these aspects support the need for transparency and strong administrative support.
Baker et al. (2011) provided insight into job satisfaction within an academic setting. No significant difference was identified within job satisfaction based on tenure, educational level, scholarship, or academic ranking. Job satisfaction was based on the competence, autonomy, and impact of the work, not on the rank and tenure.
In separate studies, Gormley (2003) and Disch et al. (2004) found that intrinsic factors had the highest predictive power related to job satisfaction. A healthy work environment and excellence in leadership were viewed as critical aspects for achieving a higher level of job satisfaction. Recognition for professional and job achievement are important contributors to job satisfaction and a healthy work environment. Individuals like to celebrate the school and individual achievements. Celebration of these aspects reflects the importance of the individual to the agency.
Discussion and Recommendations
In this review of the literature, key articles were identified that reflect the integration of theory, research, and practice experiences that not only support the use of shared governance in the academic setting but also provided insight into key components of an academic shared governance model set within the stage of a healthy work environment. Shared governance is consistent with the tenets of transformational leadership and embodies the premises of a healthy work environment (Brady, 2010). In this review, the authors considered the outcomes of studies and the ideas set forth in the literature through examples from practice and opinions of thought leaders about a healthy work environment for nursing faculty. Specifically, the authors looked at job satisfaction, work engagement, and empowerment of organizational employees as way of understanding the key components of a healthy work environment to support a high-quality academic learning environment.
In addition to considering the components of a shared governance model in an academic setting, a definition for shared governance was sought. Literature is abundant with broad definitions of, descriptions regarding the outcomes of, and behaviors related to shared governance; however, not a singular, widely accepted definition of shared governance was identified, leading to definitional ambiguity (Joseph & Bogue, 2016). The common notion of shared governance within academia as a select number of faculty members serving on a decision-making body or coordinating board was rejected, as this model did not support the idea for a true shared governance model with opportunity for participation from all faculty and staff. The Table provides an overview of definitions believed to be most relevant to shared governance within an academic setting.
Shared Governance Definitions
The authors adopted the following definition for shared governance within an academic setting: an accountability-based, dynamic partnership among leadership, faculty, and staff, founded on equity, empowerment, and shared decision making to improve the quality of services provided and work life within the academic learning environment. The decision-making hierarchy is not removed, as it is necessary to ensure that the work of the organization is completed within the standards and guidelines required of universities and related accrediting bodies; however, all stakeholders are empowered and provided the opportunity to participate within the governance structure.
This examination of shared governance in the practice setting provided a compelling argument about the benefits of moving from a hierarchical structure to a more level structure of governance. Shared governance in the academic setting faces the practical challenge of shifting to organizational structures and processes, such as accountability, team member relationships, and decision making, that reflect and allow a more level or flattened hierarchy (Clavelle, Porter-O'Grady, Weston, & Verran, 2016). Creation of unit-based entities, such as forums or councils, that foster collective deliberation and decision making that are integrated within an academic strategic plan is one way that a more level governance structure can be designed. This review of the literature did not provide detailed support for the design of optimal reporting or operational structures in an academic shared governance model; however, determining how such a model would or could be implemented needs to be the focus of research studies.
Much of the literature refers primarily to job satisfaction rather than a healthy work environment. More recently, the result suggests that an increasing number of organizations are now using a full and well-rounded definition of a healthy work environment that goes beyond traditional job satisfaction. In an academic setting, not only are the basic elements of any job important, such as salaries and benefits, but they are also a focus on professional recognition for achievement. Similarly, for staff, recognition of individual and team accomplishments supported a positive work environment. In some ways, this reflects the generational changes reflected in the current workforce (Disch et al., 2004).
Job satisfaction continues to be identified as an important outcome of shared governance, but being satisfied with one's job alone does not adequately support a healthy work environment. Empowerment appears to be a key factor for professional nurses in the attainment of job satisfaction. Kuokkanen et al. (2003) clearly identified that the structural organization of the work environment, including open communication and positive social interaction, was specifically important in supporting job satisfaction among professional nurses. An organizational structure that values individual input in decision making and a transparent administrative communication style is most consistent with facilitating job satisfaction in an academic work setting. These findings suggest that empowerment of nursing faculty and staff is a critical aspect of understanding and ensuring job satisfaction within a shared governance model.
Work engagement was found to have a wide range of definitions across the literature reviewed. At times, engagement was seen as doing the assigned tasks of a job, whereas at other times engagement reflected the amount of interest one had in the activities associated with one's job. Work engagement reflected the pragmatics of being in a job. Communication among members in predominantly hierarchical organizations was a primary obstacle to effective engagement in the job. Both the ease of communication and being included in communication were central to work engagement. The difficulty of open communication in all workplace settings and among all levels of jobs within an organization was evident. The ability to have information that was timely, accurate, and accessible was the most critical component of work engagement. Effective and transparent communication within an organization needs to be a central focus in the implementation of shared governance models.
This construct focuses on valuing the individuals and their contributions to the work of an organization. The meaningfulness of the work to the individual and to others in the organization significantly affects feelings of empowerment. Traditionally, administrators hold the power to define the job tasks and the worker meets the expectation of the administrators, without regard to the meaningfulness of the work. The role that administrators play in shared governance was not evident in the reviewed literature; however, the creation of an empowered work-force relies on participation of all members of the organization.
One of the biggest take-home messages is that empowerment may be a key method to influence not only the feelings of individuals in an organization, but also the actual outcomes of an organization. Schools of nursing should consider that empowered faculty and staff are likely to contribute to positive student outcomes. This area warrants further study.
The time is optimal for more egalitarian models of governance. This shift is critical for the survival of nursing academia and the building of new, more inclusive approaches to innovation that tap into the talent and skill of all organizational members. Shared governance is a model that should be implemented but also monitored and evaluated to learn more about best practices for operationalization in academic settings of different sizes and shapes. Shared governance models in higher education do not focus solely on a healthy work environment. As nurse educators nurture students toward careers as caring health care professionals, it is critical that our work environment supports a caring perspective for all stakeholders—leadership, faculty, and staff. Application of a traditionally clinical-based shared governance model to the academic setting should result in better outcomes for students and, ultimately, for patients. Engaging in the transformational practice of shared governance as we venture toward a future where transformational learning is at the center of nursing academia will provide essential experiential learning.
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Shared Governance Definitions
|Joseph & Bogue (2016)||Self-directed goal attainment that aligns unit-level teams and nursing leadership to enable the achievement of personal, unit/team, department, and organizational goals for nursing practice|
|Porter-O'Grady (2001, 2004)||A professional practice model founded on the cornerstone principles of partnership, equity, accountability, and ownership that form a culturally sensitive and empowering framework|
|Swihart (2006)||Shared decision making based on the principles of partnership, equity, accountability, and ownership at the point of service|
|Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (2003, 2014)||Structure that fosters collaboration, shared decision making, equity, ownership, and accountability among faculty and staff in support of advancing the quality of the academic learning environment|
|Vanderbilt University Medical Center Shared Governance Task Force (n.d.)||A dynamic staff–leader partnership that promotes collaboration, shared decision making, and accountability for improving quality of care, safety, and enhancing work life|