Intrapreneurial Nurse Managers: Transforming Workplaces

Sunday, 29 October 2017: 4:15 PM

Karen Georgina Clark-Burg, PhD, RN
School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Notre Dame Australia, Subiaco, Australia


This paper presents the findings of a study conducted in Western Australia on nurse managers in the metropolitan public and private hospitals. Emphasis on the concept of intrapreneurship and the importance of identifying and nurturing the intrapreneur nurse managers’ will be presented and discussed. Intrapreneurship is a concept relatively new to the nursing profession. The term intrapreneurship is closely related to entrepreneurship and innovativeness, which takes place within the organisation and was first apparent in the study of small companies by Heinonen and Korvela (2003). The Australian Oxford Dictionary(2004) defines an intrapreneur as ‘an employee of a large corporation who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services, systems’. The intrapreneur acts like an entrepreneur in that he/she realises his/her own ideas without being the owner of the enterprise (Heinonen & Korvela, 2003).


This study used a Grounded Theory (GT) method which explains “ what is going on in the data” through a process of coding, memoing, theoretical sampling and theoretical sorting and this is a diagram that I thought depicted the GT process quite well. Data for this study was collected through formal face to face interviews, ‘shadowing’ of the nurse managers from when they commenced shift to the end of shift, observing ward meetings, meetings of the nurse managers groups and informal interviews with staff members from RN’s to patient care assistants.


In a recent Grounded Theory study of Nurse Managers’ (NMs) and their decision making styles, it was found that those who have around 5 or more years experience in their role possess the decision-making style of being intrapreneurial. Intrapreneurship has been defined very broadly in the literature as the concept is in a relatively early stage of development. It has been defined as an entrepreneurial way of action in an existing organisation, which is based on ‘recognising an opportunity, exploiting it and trusting that exploiting an opportunity in a new way that deviates from previous practice will succeed and support the realisation of the organisation’s aims’ (Heinonen & Korvela, 2003, p. 3). This happens when they have developed relationships with their executives and nursing staff, are more comfortable with their role and understand routines and the way things are done in the ward. They would have also made decisions that resulted in positive feedback from both staff and executives, which give them the confidence with further decision-making. NMs become intrapreneurial once they have established the trust of both their staff and nurse executives, which enables them to enlist their support in achieving their vision.

An intrapreneur has the unique ability to go beyond creativity, including being willing to take some risks in sharing and pushing a unique idea. They have the perseverance to wait for senior management’s approval to create and launch the product or service, and the drive to see it through to fruition. They are willing to do what allows them to think outside the box and embrace new ideas.


The findings of the study revealed that NMs are intrapreneurial when they have prior experience in management. Even if they are unfamiliar with the ward environment and have not got to know the staff working on the ward, they exhibit the intrapreneurial traits of being visionary and future focused, with the ambition of changing ineffective ward routines and processes.