The Importance of a Healthy Work Environment in Nursing

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A nurse’s work environment always has inherent risks, such as sharps injuries. However, it’s essential to minimize these risks and promote a healthy work environment in nursing for the well-being of nurses and their patients. Employers can address inadequate staffing, prioritize workplace safety and implement wellness programs.

nurse putting on face mask

Seeing a patient recover from a serious health problem can be immensely satisfying, which is why nurses often feel their careers bring personal fulfillment. As rewarding as nursing can be, it also brings challenges. Nursing is a demanding, fast-paced line of work, posing health hazards to the nurses themselves. That’s why maintaining a healthy work environment in nursing is so important.

Fortunately, students enrolled in Felician University’s Hybrid or On-Ground Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs receive the education and preparation needed to navigate healthcare environments and advocate for better working conditions.

As you prepare to enter the nursing workforce, it’s important to understand what constitutes a healthy work environment and why they are so crucial.

Below is an exploration of healthy work environments for nurses and how organizations can take steps to promote better working conditions.

What Is a Healthy Work Environment in Nursing?

It’s important to note that a nurse’s work environment will always have inherent risks, including the risk of:

  • Sharps injuries
  • Blood-borne pathogens
  • Airborne illnesses
  • Exposure to unsafe chemicals
  • Orthopedic injuries caused by patient lifting and turning
  • Injuries due to aggressive patients
  • Mental stress
  • Grief caused by the loss of a patient

Unfortunately, it’s impossible to eliminate these risks completely. For instance, nurses need to use ethylene oxide to sterilize equipment, which can increase the risk of health issues when mishandled. However, organizations can minimize these potential health hazards and give nurses the proper support and resources to promote healthy working conditions.

Favorable working conditions for nurses mean they have sufficient resources and can adhere to safety protocols to minimize the risk of physical and psychological harm. To that end, the American Nurses Association (ANA) established the Nurses’ Bill of Rights. This document includes seven essential principles regarding workplace environments.

Felician nursing student working with simulation manikin

A few of these seven principles are:

  • “Nurses have the right to a work environment that is safe for themselves and their patients.”
  • “Nurses have the right to a work environment that supports and facilitates ethical practice, in accordance with the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements.”
  • “Nurses have the right to practice in environments that allow them to act in accordance with professional standards and legally authorized scopes of practice.”

As you can see, safe working conditions for nurses are a top priority for the field’s professional organizations. All nurses must recognize when their current environment is inadequate and change is necessary.

Key Elements of a Healthy Nursing Work Environment

In practical terms, what should a nurse’s work environment look like? Some elements of a healthy nursing work environment are as follows:

Adequate Staffing

There is an ongoing shortage of nurses in the U.S., meaning many healthcare facilities face staffing difficulties. Yet, adequate staffing throughout all departments is essential for promoting a healthy work environment in nursing.

Hospitals often address temporary staffing shortages by hiring travel nurses. Many also use the floating practice, which moves nurses from one unit to another within the hospital, depending on staffing needs.

Unfortunately, floating causes its own challenges, especially when a nurse is unfamiliar with the specific needs of patients in their new, temporary department. This can cause stress and anxiety and may increase the risk of medical errors. In other words, hospitals should strive to address staffing challenges to minimize the use of floating.

Safety Protocols

Safety protocols are essential in all hospital departments. Nurses must adhere to applicable safety protocols and have the necessary resources to do so.

Felician ABSN student smiling and holding laptop

Standard safety protocols cover issues such as:

  • Hand hygiene
  • Use of personal protective equipment (PPE)
  • Sharps safety
  • Instrument and device sterilization
  • Surface disinfection
  • Safe injection practices
  • Respiratory hygiene
  • Radiation safety

Supportive Management

The culture within a nursing unit and the larger hospital is often top-down; it originates with management and trickles down through the various departments. The administrative and management team must take active and ongoing steps to promote safe and healthy working conditions for nurses.

Positive Culture

Speaking of culture, a positive and supportive culture at work can do much to promote safety and well-being. Cultivating a positive culture can be accomplished in many different ways, including:

  • Giving meaningful recognition to nurses who go above and beyond to contribute to patient health and safety, thereby encouraging others to do the same
  • Empowering nurses with autonomy and decision-making authority
  • Supporting and facilitating collaboration among all healthcare professionals
  • Ensuring that nurse leaders, including charge nurses, are equipped with the necessary soft skills to promote a positive culture and good working conditions

Benefits of Promoting Healthy Working Conditions for Nurses

Paying close attention to a nurse’s work environment has many benefits. Here’s a look at a few of them.

nurse wearing mask and green scrubs standing in front of lab equipment

What is autonomy in nursing? Why does it matter? Read more to learn about autonomy in nursing.

Positive Culture and Better Morale

A positive culture can help create better working conditions for nurses and improve the overall morale of a nursing team.

Better Patient Outcomes

Research shows that patients benefit from nurses working within a safe and healthy environment. Healthcare facilities that prioritize the health and well-being of their nursing staff will consequently be more likely to achieve more positive patient outcomes.

Higher Nurse Satisfaction Rates

Nurses generally choose this line of work out of a desire to help others, but that motivator isn’t always enough to maintain nurse satisfaction rates, especially in poor working conditions.

Focusing on healthy working conditions is a necessary precursor to promoting all supporting factors, such as nursing autonomy, collaboration, communication, and opportunities for professional development.

Felician nursing student

Stronger Nurse Retention Rates

High nurse turnover rates can be problematic for healthcare facilities, patients and fellow nurses, leading to inadequate staffing. Strong retention rates may follow by prioritizing nurse satisfaction and good working conditions.

Common Challenges in Nurses’ Work Environment

Achieving a healthy work environment in nursing isn’t always easy. Some common challenges are as follows.

High-Stress Job

A challenge many nurses face is job-related stress. Nurses often juggle the needs of many patients at once, some of whom may be seriously ill or injured. Maintaining a calm, stress-free mindset can be difficult when half a dozen patients all hit their call buttons at roughly the same time.

Inadequate Funding

Healthcare facilities often run with both patient welfare and profit in mind. These two goals can sometimes be at odds. When a healthcare facility decides to prioritize profits over the welfare of patients and nurses, the resulting inadequate funding to departments can lead to insufficient resources and understaffing.


Understaffing is one of the most significant issues leading to unfavorable working conditions for nurses. When a department is understaffed, patients suffer, and nurses are more likely to make mistakes because they are pressed for time. Understaffing can also cause psychological consequences such as burnout.

Ways to Improve Working Conditions in Nursing

A nurse’s work environment is integral to their effectiveness and wellness. Healthcare employers can and should take steps to improve working conditions.

What is nursing advocacy? Learn about this essential role here.

nurse holding patient's hand

Prioritizing Workplace Safety

There are many ways that healthcare employers can prioritize workplace safety. Ensuring that all departments are adequately staffed does much to improve conditions for nurses and ensure all departments have the resources they need.

Staff Wellness Programs

Healthcare employers can implement various nursing staff wellness programs that support their nurses’ physical and psychological well-being. These can include:

  • Onsite fitness opportunities
  • Better access to nutritious meals at work (and enough time to eat them)
  • Dedicated downtime rooms for mid-shift naps and general relaxation
  • Access to mental health counseling
  • Employer recognition of outstanding nurses
  • Access to massage therapy and chiropractic care
  • Regular screenings for musculoskeletal injuries, such as those caused by patient lifting and turning

Professional Development Opportunities

Professional development opportunities are another way healthcare employers can promote a healthy work environment and protect staff wellness. Access to professional development and ongoing education opportunities promotes good patient outcomes and supports nursing autonomy.

Felician ABSN student sitting at desk with laptop smiling

Start Your Nursing Career at Felician University

If you’re eager to begin a rewarding career in nursing, Felician University is here to help. Our Hybrid and On-Ground ABSN programs have a longstanding history of graduating confident, practice-ready nurses who understand how to advocate for themselves, their colleagues, and their patients. Use the skills taught at Felician to promote a healthy work environment for all.

If you have a non-nursing bachelor’s degree or a minimum of 60 college credits, you may meet the admissions requirements and graduate in as few as 16 months with your nursing degree, fully prepared to sit for the NCLEX.

Contact our admissions counselors today to learn more about our accelerated nursing programs in New Jersey.