Elizabeth Beaudin, PhD
“The Phenomenon of Sense of Community of Staff Registered Nurses in Acute Care Hospitals”
The hospital work environment of nurses has become increasingly demanding and complex, requiring greater and more skilled nursing resources. Currently a severe shortage of nurses in the U.S. and throughout the world is occurring and is projected to reach unprecedented levels by the year 2020 (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2002), while quality of care and medical error are subjects of a national dialogue of concern. There has been limited exploration of the impact of interrelationships of nurses on staff and patient outcomes and no specific study of the sense of community of nurses. The study of sense of community which originated within the discipline of community psychology holds promise for understanding the interrelationships of nurses in the work environment.
The purpose of this study was to describe the fundamental structure of the sense of community experience of staff registered nurses working in acute care hospitals. Thirteen registered nurses were interviewed regarding their sense of community experience and data were analyzed using the descriptive phenomenological method of Colaizzi (1978). Seven themes were identified that demonstrated that nurses’ sense of community experience involved helping each other without waiting for request or assignment; collectively employing their skills in well orchestrated teamwork to provide expert patient care; knowing each other as individual human beings; acknowledging multiple communities; feeling support both personally and professionally; focusing on patient care as the center of the experience; engaging in open honest communication and rejecting undermining behaviors; and being part of the unique understanding of nurses. Through their expressions participants communicated a passion for their profession and great care for their patients and coworkers. Further research to better understand and measure of the sense of community of nurses will generate valuable knowledge needed to establish the healthy work environments. The creation and maintenance of sense of community in the workplace of nurses has significant potential for retaining nurses, enabling optimal utilization of nursing expertise, and ensuring the provision of safe, high quality patient care.