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Why Nurse Leaders Should Understand Organizational Behavior in Nursing

Every industry thrives when its leaders understand the nuances of organizational behavior, the study of how individuals act within an organization. This awareness is especially crucial in healthcare, where behavioral dynamics directly impact patient care.

Nurse leaders and administrators play a pivotal role in fostering a healthy organizational culture, ensuring both caregivers and patients benefit. Here, we shed light on the importance of understanding organizational behavior in healthcare and its pivotal role in nursing leadership.

What Is Organizational Behavior in Healthcare?

Organizational behavior in healthcare refers to the study of how healthcare professionals — be it doctors, nurses or administrative staff — interact within the healthcare environment. This encompasses their attitudes, performance and overall satisfaction in the organization.

The primary goal of understanding organizational behavior is to enhance efficiency and promote a positive work environment, ultimately resulting in improved patient care. Investopedia offers an in-depth perspective on organizational behavior, noting its significance across multiple industries.

For example, this publication describes the importance of the “Hawthorne Effect,” which refers to the alteration in behavior by the subjects of a study due to their awareness of being observed. In simpler terms, when people know they are being watched or studied, their behavior might change — often improving or becoming more positive.

Research reveals that human behavior in organizations is not just influenced by tangible factors like pay, work hours or environment, but also intangible elements like recognition, perceived importance and feeling valued. The Hawthorne Effect was among the first empirical validations of this notion — and it definitely has an impact on organizational behavior in nursing.

Why Is Organizational Behavior Important?

In the healthcare sector, the stakes are high. Here, organizational behavior influences the employees and the well-being of the patients. According to a study published in BMC Health Services Research, the behavior and interaction of healthcare professionals are intricately linked to patient outcomes. When nurse leaders understand and implement best practices in organizational behavior, they can:

  • Enhance team dynamics. Fostering a positive work environment promotes better communication, collaboration and job satisfaction.
  • Boost patient care. A harmonious workplace indirectly boosts patient satisfaction, as caregivers are more focused, content and efficient.
  • Reduce turnover. Leaders who understand the needs and motivations of their staff can help reduce turnover rates, ensuring continuity in patient care.

Relias points out, “Leadership in nursing practice directly impacts an organization’s drive, performance, and people.” Thus, understanding organizational behavior is a cornerstone of effective leadership in nursing.

What Role Do Nurse Leaders Play With Respect to Organizational Behavior in Healthcare?

Healthcare settings are often intense environments where emotions run high, and a minor miscommunication can have significant repercussions. Nurse leaders are at the forefront of managing these dynamics. As emphasized by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), nurse leaders with a deep understanding of organizational behavior:

  • Facilitate constructive communication. Doing so promotes open channels of dialogue, ensuring that team members feel heard and valued.
  • Drive positive change. By understanding the challenges and motivations of their teams, nurse leaders can implement changes that elevate the organization.
  • Promote employee well-being. Prioritizing the mental and emotional health of caregivers ensures that they, in turn, offer the best care to patients.

Equipping Nurse Leaders: The University of Southern Maine (USM) Approach

Recognizing the pivotal role that organizational behavior plays in healthcare, institutions like the University of Southern Maine (USM) have integrated it into their curriculum. The online Master of Science (MS) in Nursing – Nursing Administration and Leadership program at USM, for instance, offers coursework such as the Organizational Theory and Behavior course. This program equips graduates with the skills to:

  • Understand the theoretical foundations of organizational behavior in healthcare settings.
  • Implement best practices to promote a healthy organizational culture.
  • Lead with insight, compassion and efficiency.

Nurse Leaders’ Impact on the Future of Healthcare

As healthcare dynamics continue to evolve, the importance of understanding organizational behavior within nursing cannot be overstated. Nurse leaders and administrators are leading this evolution, ensuring that the healthcare environment remains conducive to caregivers and patients. Through structured education and a genuine commitment to understanding the intricacies of organizational behavior, nurse leaders can truly make a difference.

Learn more about USM’s online MS in Nursing – Nursing Administration and Leadership program.

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