Bedside nurse turnover in the United States is 15.9%, representing a national challenge that has been attributed to poor work environments. Healthy work environments are associated with improved nurse satisfaction and retention as well as positive patient outcomes; unhealthy work environments have the opposite effects.


To implement the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) healthy work environment (HWE) framework in an intensive care unit and to evaluate staff satisfaction, turnover, and tenure 2 years later.


A pre-post study design was used to evaluate implementation of the HWE framework in an intensive care unit in a large academic medical facility. Interventions for each of the 6 HWE standards were performed. The AACN HWE assessment survey was used to measure skilled communication, true collaboration, effective decision-making, appropriate staffing, meaningful recognition, and authentic leadership in 2017 and in 2019.


Nurse cohorts (n = 165 in 2017; n = 176 in 2019) had a mean age of 31 (median, 27; range, 23-63) years, were predominantly female (76%), and had a mean of 5 (median, 3) years of intensive care unit nursing experience. Statistically significant improvements were found in all standards except the skilled communication and overall measures. Registered nurse turnover remained stable and tenure increased by 79 days in this 2-year period.


Findings from this study suggest that interventions addressing the HWE standards are associated with improved staff satisfaction, turnover, and average tenure, further demonstrating the value of the HWE framework in improving retention.

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