The influence of empowered work environments on the psychological experiences of nursing assistants during COVID-19: a qualitative study

Jasmine L. Travers, Krista Schroeder, Allison A. Norful, Sainfer Aliyu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: Nursing Assistants (NA) who feel empowered tend to perform their duties better, have higher morale and job satisfaction, and are less likely to leave their jobs. Organizational empowerment practices in hospitals likely shape the psychological experiences of empowerment among these personnel; however, little is known about this relationship. Objective: We used qualitative inquiry to explore the relationship between organizational empowerment structural components and feelings of psychological empowerment among hospital frontline workers during a public health emergency. Methods: Kanter’s Theory of Structural Empowerment and Spreitzer’s Psychological Empowerment in the Workplace Framework were applied to identify the conceptual influences of organizational practices on psychological experiences of empowerment. In-depth interviews were conducted with a convenience sample of NAs, caring for hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Directed content analysis was performed to generate a data matrix consisting of the psychological experiences of meaning, competence, self-determination, and impact embedded under the organizational structural components of information, resources, support, and opportunity. Results: Thirteen NAs (mean age = 42 years, 92% female) completed interviews. Information, or lack thereof, provided to the NAs influenced feelings of fear, preparation, and autonomy. Resources (e.g., protocols, equipment, and person-power) made it easier to cope with overwhelming emotions, affected the NAs’ abilities to do their jobs, and when limited, drove NAs to take on new roles. NAs noted that support was mostly provided by nurses and made the NAs feel appreciated, desiring to contribute more. While NAs felt they could consult leadership when needed, several felt leadership showed little appreciation for their roles and contributions. Similar to support, the opportunity to take care of COVID-19 patients yielded a diverse array of emotions, exposed advances and gaps in NA preparation, and challenged NAs to autonomously develop new care practices and processes. Conclusion: Management and empowerment of healthcare workers are critical to hospital performance and success. We found many ways in which the NAs’ psychological experiences of empowerment were shaped by the healthcare system’s empowerment-related structural conditions during a public health emergency. To further develop an empowered and committed critical workforce, hospitals must acknowledge the organizational practice influence on the psychological experiences of empowerment among NAs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number98
JournalBMC Nursing
Volume19
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

Keywords

  • Acute care
  • Coronavirus
  • Direct care
  • Empowerment
  • Frontline workers
  • Patient care technician

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)

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