Creating Healthy Work Environment Standards for Academia

Sunday, 19 March 2017: 9:00 AM

Rebecca Bouterie Harmon, PhD
School of Nursing, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA
Regina M. DeGennaro, DNP
Acute and Specialty Services, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA
Meg F. Norling, BSN
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA

This work describes the efforts at one School of Nursing to create a Healthy Work Environment (HWE) that supports all members of the academic community—students, staff and faculty. The need for healthier work environments—to improve patient care, teamwork, and nurse retention—is well established in the clinical setting and was codified by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN) in 2005 and again in 2016. This work describes the progress made in the development of an academic Healthy Work Environment based on the work of Fontaine et al (2012) and calls for the addition of a critical seventh standard—self-care. Foundational to all of the healthy work standards, self-care deserves explicit recognition, especially in light of widespread nursing burnout and compassion fatigue. Academic institutions, which lay the foundation and help establish norms for future nursing practice, have a unique opportunity to encourage and model self-care. Nurses who take care of themselves strengthen their personal and professional resilience, which in turn helps to improve patient care and mitigate burnout and compassion fatigue. Registered Nurse (RN) turnover, an important and widely used measure in analyzing the healthcare workforce, is high for newly licensed RNs. It is estimated that the one-year turnover rate for this group is over 17%; the two-year rate is over 33% (Kovner, Brewer, Fatehi, & Jun, 2014). High turnover is not only expensive in the clinical setting, but can negatively affect teamwork and patient outcomes. More attention to detail and nurturing needs to occur in order to prepare, support and retain our new—and existing-- nursing workforce. Academic institutions have a unique opportunity to promote awareness and practice of healthy work habits for all. Schools of nursing cansupport the culture of civility and self-care by intentionally guiding employees in strategic ways to support inclusivity and interprofessional education in a healthy work environment. Faculty, staff, and students need empowerment to engage in self-care activities. Resilience and self-care activities are not "frills"; they are integral to a successful transition to, and longevity in, all areas of nursing. For over a decade the ANCC HWE standards have helped clinicians to improve nursing practice and patient care.It is time to add a seventh standard of self-care. Changing a community's culture is hard work and requires commitment by many over time. For change to be sustainable, structural and organizational change is also needed. The future of nursing depends on it.