Efforts to improve nursing working conditions are critical to retaining nurses currently in the system and attracting newcomers to the profession (Laschinger et al. 2003b). The nurse leader's empowering behaviours can be pivotal in the way nurses react to their work environment. The purpose of this study was to test a model examining the relationship between nurse leaders' empowerment behaviours, perceptions of staff empowerment, areas of work life and work engagement using Kanter's theory of structural power in organizations. A cross-sectional correlational survey design tested the model in a random sample of 322 staff nurses in acute care hospitals across Ontario. Overall, staff nurses perceived their leaders' behaviours to be somewhat empowering and their work environment to be moderately empowering. Fifty-three percent reported severe levels of burnout. Leader empowering behaviour had an indirect effect on emotional exhaustion (burnout) through structural empowerment and overall fit in the six areas of work life. The final model statistics revealed a good fit (χ2=30.4, χ=3, χ=0.96, χ=0.95, χ=0.95). These findings suggest that the leader's empowering behaviours can enhance person-job fit and prevent burnout. These findings have important implications in the current nursing shortage.
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