Background The quality of nurses’ work environments in hospitals is of great concern. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses has specified 6 standards essential to a healthy (ie, satisfying and productive) work environment. These standards are sufficiently aligned to the Essentials of Magnetism processes to make this tool suitable for measuring healthy work environments.

Objectives To identify differences in staff nurses’ perceptions of the work environment by type of intensive care unit.

Methods A cross-sectional descriptive design with strategic sampling was used in this secondary analysis of data from 698 staff nurses working in 34 intensive care units in 8 magnet hospitals. Intensive care units were grouped into 4 types: medical, including coronary care; surgical, including trauma and cardiovascular; neonatal and pediatric; and medical-surgical. All nurses completed the Essentials of Magnetism instrument. Analysis of variance was used to identify initial differences; multivariate analysis of variance was used to control for covariates.

Results The intensive care nurses and units scored above the National Magnet Hospital Profile mean on process variables and on the Essentials of Magnetism outcome variables. Neonatal and pediatric units scored significantly higher than did the other types of intensive care units sampled.

Conclusions Intensive care unit structures supported care processes and relationships that resulted in job satisfaction among nurses and high-quality care for patients in this strategic sample. Systematic study of the structures and processes present in units reporting a healthy work environment can be used to assist other clinical units in improving work environments.

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