Home > RNJ > 2010 > November/December > Editorial: The Importance of Engagement

Editorial: The Importance of Engagement
Elaine Tilka Miller, PhD RN CRRN FAHA FAAN

What sets nurses who are engaged in their work apart from those experiencing burnout? Nurses who are engaged with their work have a psychological commitment to their jobs and workplaces (Fasoli, 2010). Engagement occurs when there is a match between nurses and their work settings. Evidence of engagement includes high energy, involvement, and positive self-worth (Maslach & Leiter, 1997). A positively engaged nurse reflects a productive work-related state of mind that is characterized by feelings of vigor, dedication to work, and absorption, which includes being fully committed and persistently immersed in work-related activities (Shaufeli, Bakker, & Salanova, 2006). Moreover, engagement tends to be a pervasive and lasting state rather than transitory. In addition, research supports the strong connection between a positive work environment, work engagement, and nurse retention. Keeping nurses engaged in their work can significantly affect the delivery of quality patient care and promote greater retention of nurses (Fasoli, 2010; Simpson, 2009).

Despite the dire predictions of health care's future (e.g., a shortage of key personnel, escalating numbers of aging Baby Boomers, and an increase in the number of Americans with chronic healthcare issues), this issue of RNJ illustrates how rehabilitation nurses and other healthcare professionals are demonstrating their work engagement and, consequently, improving the delivery of quality care. For instance, Collins, Bell, and Gronqvist's article provides an overview of evidence-based interventions intended to prevent nurses from overexerting themselves by avoiding slips, trips, and falls as well as actions to facilitate safe patient handling. Brown, Hickling, and Frahm describe the crucial role of rehabilitation nurses in various types of disasters, while the other authors of articles in this issue identify feasible interventions to improve the quality of life for patients with physical, psychological, and cognitive disabilities. By disseminating their research, these authors are advancing the scientific basis of our practice and energizing other nurses to contemplate additional questions that need to be explored.

Being engaged in their work—whether it is acute care, clinical, long-term care, or another setting—stimulates nurses to be more enthusiastic, involved, and responsive to new opportunities and challenges and maintains their passion for and contributions to nursing. Nurses who are engaged with their work also tend to be more innovative, involved in activities or projects (e.g., procedural and policy changes, program development), and participate in ways that are personally meaningful and engender an added sense of purpose and satisfaction. As you reflect on your specific engagement with your practice and setting, think about those drivers or antecedents (e.g., work culture, orgnizational processes and resources, leadership as well as effective communication between all stakeholders) that foster this psychological state and the resultant outcomes (e.g., nurse retention, positive patient experiences).

When engagement is present, nurses tend to function from a position of strength and determination to provide comprehensive quality care rather than a perception of uncertainty and sense of powerlessness. When working together to positively affect the drivers of work engagement, nurses at all levels can advance our practice, the quality of care provided, and the retention of nurses.


Fasoli, D. R. (2010). The culture of nursing engagement: A historical perspective. Nursing Administration Quarterly, 34(1), 18–29.

Maslach, C., & Leiter, M. P. (1997). The truth about burnout. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schaufeli, W. B., Bakker, A. B., & Salanova, M. (2006). The measurement of work engagement with a short questionnaire: A cross-national study. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 66(4), 701–716.

Simpson, M. R. (2009). Predictors of work engagement among medical-surgical registered nurses. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 31(1), 44–65.