Positive practice environments in critical care units : a grounded theory
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INTRODUCTION AND AIM: The current shortage of nurses is a concern shared by the healthcare industry globally. Whilst the reasons for these shortages are varied and complex, a key factor among them seem to involve an unhealthy work environment. The demanding nature of the critical care environment presents a challenge to many nursing professionals and it carries the risk of a high turn over rate due to the stress and intensity of the critical care environment. The critical care nurse is responsible for caring for the most ill patients in hospitals and the acute shortage of critical care nurses contributes to the intensity and pressures of this environment. Little evidence exists of research conducted to explore and describe the practice environment of the critical care nurse in South Africa. The main aim of this research study was to construct a theory for positive practice environments in critical care units in South Africa, grounded in the views and perceptions of critical care nurses working in the private hospital context. In recognition of the fact that a positive practice environment is considered to be the foundation for the successful recruitment and retention of nurses, it was clear that issues related to staff shortages will not be resolved unless the unhealthy work environment of nurses is adequately addressed. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHOD: A constructivist grounded theory design was selected to address the inquiry at hand. The study was divided into two phases and pragmatic plurality allowed the use of both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods to explore, describe and contextualise the data in order to achieve the overall aim of the study. In phase one, a checklist developed by the researcher was used to describe the demographic profile of the critical care units (n=31) that participated in the study. The perceptions of critical care nurses (n=298) regarding their current practice environment was explored and decribed by using a valid and reliable instrument, the Practice Environment Scale of the Nursing Work Index (PES-NWI). In phase two, the elements of a positive practice environment were explored and described by means of intensive interviews with critical care nurses (n=6) working in the critical care environment. Concepts related to the phenomenon under investigation were identified by means of an inductive analysis of the data through a coding process and memo-writing. One core conceptual category and six related categories emerged out of the data. In the final phase of the theoretical sampling of the literature, a set of conclusions relevant to the phenomenon under study was constructed. The conclusions deduced from the empirical findings in both phases of the research process were integrated with those derived from the literature review to provide the foundation from which the theory was constructed. FINDINGS: The findings from the first phase of the research process provided information about the context in which the participants operate and assisted in discovering concepts considered relevant to the phenomenon under investigation. A grounded theory depicting the core conceptual category of "being in controi" and its relation to the other six categories was constructed from the data in order to explain a positive practice environment for critical care units in the private healthcare sector in South Africa.
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