A dimensional analysis of nursing unit culture

Kathryn Leep-Lazar, Amy Witkoski Stimpfel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aim(s): Organizational culture has been studied for over four decades among nurses, across countries and contexts. However, wide variation exists in how the concept has been defined and at what level of the organization it is measured. The aim of this study was to use a dimensional analysis to conduct a conceptual synthesis of unit culture from a nursing perspective. Design: Dimensional analysis, rooted in grounded theory methodology, was used to describe unit culture from a nursing perspective. Methods: A literature search was conducted in April 2022. Inclusion criteria were (1) peer review publications, (2) used the term ‘unit culture’ or ‘ward culture’, (3) references nurses' role in unit culture, (4) published in the last 20 years and (5) written in English. One hundred fifteen articles met inclusion criteria, but dimensional saturation was researched after coding 24 articles. Results: Findings were synthesized into four core dimensions and 10 subdimensions. Dimensions of unit culture included customs (practice norms, communication and prioritization), shared beliefs (assumptions, values and attitudes), hierarchy (social and informational) and atmosphere (emotional climate and collaboration). Conditions that shape unit culture include individual nurse characteristics, working conditions, unit policies/procedures and leadership. Unit culture impacts nurse work experiences and decision-making processes, which can affect outcomes including nurse wellbeing, practice behaviours and adherence to unit policies. Conclusions: Identifying the dimensions of unit culture helps to bring clarity to a concept that is not well defined in existing literature. Impact: This model of unit culture can be used to guide development of new instruments to measure unit culture or guide researchers in utilizing existing measures. Developing measures specific to unit culture are warranted to strengthen researchers' ability to assess how changing conditions of a unit (e.g. leadership, workload) changes unit culture and its related outcomes. Patient or Public Contribution: No Patient or Public Contribution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Advanced Nursing
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Nursing


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