Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Studies

First Advisor

William Bosher

Second Advisor

Whitney Sherman

Third Advisor

JoAnne Henry

Fourth Advisor

Jonathan Becker


The current and projected nursing shortage makes it imperative for healthcare organizations to examine factors that promote staff retention. Previous studies identify nursing leadership as a key component influencing staff retention and turnover. This study supplements these studies by identifying key behaviors and attitudes of frontline nursing leaders that influence staff retention. Using a grounded theory qualitative approach, the researcher interviewed 19 frontline nursing leaders in an acute care community hospital. The researcher also explored the extent to which nursing leaders felt current leadership education and training programs support their practices that promote staff retention. The goal of the study was to create a theory or model of nursing leadership and staff retention grounded in the data. Five major themes emerged from the interview data analysis process using grounded theory strategies. These themes include organizational culture and policies, nursing leaders training and development, behaviors and attitudes, employee factors, and turnover. The researcher interpreted the data within a systems theory conceptual framework. Using this framework aided the researcher in creating a model of frontline nursing leaders and staff retention. This model illustrates the inter-relationship of the five major themes from a systems perspective. The usefulness of the data collected in this study is predicated on three major domains: competency identification; human resource management and development; and education. Competencies form the foundation for the education and practice of frontline nursing leaders (Barker et al., 2006). These role-specific, evidenced-based expectations should be clearly delineated in competency-based job descriptions, which in turn merge into performance evaluations. Explicitly defined competencies provide a conceptual framework for collegiate and hospital-based education and training programs to train current and future frontline nursing leaders.


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Date of Submission

May 2009

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