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How Can Clinical Nurse Leaders Impact Organizational Culture in Healthcare Settings

There is much discussion about the need for improvement in the healthcare industry. Initiatives like Healthy People 2030 and reports like the Future of Nursing illuminate challenges, set goals, suggest policies and provide a roadmap for change in nursing and healthcare. Progress toward many of these goals — such as advancing health equity and building more balanced and sustainable work environments — begins mainly with people on the ground.

In nursing, those improvements are often implemented by clinical nurse leaders (CNLs) who create positive organizational cultures that support nurses, improve patient outcomes and drive meaningful change. The University of Louisiana Monroe (ULM) offers an online Master of Science in Nursing – Gerontologic Clinical Nurse Leader program that equips graduates with the skills to achieve the goals of a healthy organizational culture as a CNL and work with elderly patients.

How Do Clinical Nurse Leaders Enhance Workplace Culture?

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended healthcare workplaces, and many organizations continue to struggle with understaffing, retention and the resulting negative impact on patient care quality and employee satisfaction.

Increasingly, CNLs fulfill a critical role in establishing a healthier, more functional workplace and culture. Because CNLs have a high-level view of an organization’s clinical and administrative needs, they can introduce policies and procedures that consider all angles and focus on the well-being of patients and staff alike. These changes may result in more significant support for nursing staff, greater employee autonomy, access to resources and the ability to work at the top of their scope of practice. A happier, more capable nursing staff is better prepared to care for patients and address their unique needs.

Although CNLs are instrumental in defining an organization’s goals and guiding nurses toward them, nurses are integral to achieving them. However, forward momentum becomes much more difficult when nurses grow exhausted, do not have the tools necessary to do their jobs or are hamstrung by restrictive policies or unsupportive leadership.

According to an October 2022 study in the Annals of Medicine and Surgery, nurses with lower job satisfaction provide less efficient care, and care quality suffers as nursing burnout rises. This is a key reason why the latest Future of Nursing report encourages nurse leaders to prioritize nurses’ health and well-being.

To that end, CNLs can advocate for the widespread implementation of evidence-based interventions to support nurses’ mental, physical and emotional health. In addition, CNLs can nurture interdisciplinary collaboration in their organizations, restoring trust among healthcare professionals and contributing to a more pleasant and cohesive workplace culture.

Does Workplace Culture Affect Patient Safety and Outcomes?

Whether CNLs work with a general patient population or within a specific specialty, such as gerontology, they can significantly impact patient safety and outcomes. They can eliminate redundancies within the care cycle, thereby lessening the workload and burnout of nursing staff while simultaneously improving care quality and cost savings. They can enforce safer patient ratios, ensure nurses receive adequate breaks and lunch periods and serve as a resource for nurses and other healthcare professionals when questions about treatment or challenging patient scenarios arise.

For example, nurse leaders at the Cleveland Clinic utilize a “just culture decision tree” model to evaluate the circumstances contributing to safety events. Based on a model from the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, CNLs use this standardized process to identify practice gaps, interventions and individual training needs. This tactic helps to avoid a “blame game” culture and can reduce or eliminate similar errors in the future.

Many healthcare organizations and nurse leaders are rethinking care delivery, particularly as the nation’s aging population places unprecedented strain on the system. The strategies implemented by gerontological CNLs can maintain care quality and staff well-being while still meeting national metrics for elderly patient outcomes. CNLs who work with older patients must have a holistic understanding of the social needs, chronic conditions and other factors that affect geriatric populations.

ULM’s program emphasizes the importance of both organizational culture and elder patient care. As the program page notes, students in the program will examine “global health issues, vulnerable populations, clinical nurse leadership roles and organizational leadership roles in the management of human resources with an emphasis on organizational efficiency.” Courses in these areas include Role Development for the Clinical Nurse Leader, Biology of Aging and Social Gerontology.

ULM’s online MSN – Gerontologic CNL program prepares nurses to excel in this role. The curriculum provides graduates with the skills to refine gerontologic healthcare delivery, safety and patient outcomes while creating supportive, positive work environments for their nursing teams.

Learn more about ULM’s online MSN – Gerontologic CNL program.

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