There are certain words and phrases that are used frequently in nursing and medicine – sometimes so frequently that we lose our understanding of their true meaning. Or sometimes, we may not have really understood them at all.

For me, “shared governance” was one such phrase. In the past, if someone had asked me what shared governance meant, I would have had some difficulty explaining it in great detail. Sure, I would have answered that it’s a model for nurses to work together and manage themselves, but beyond that, I’d have been at a loss.

That is, until, I did some reading. Now I feel better prepared to discuss shared governance and its role in nursing. Here’s what I’d say now:

Shared governance is collaboration, whether in scheduling staff, educating new staff, or implementing evidence-based practice. It involves teamwork, problem-solving, and accountability, with the goals of improved staff satisfaction, productivity, and patient outcomes. It is working together to make decisions that affect nursing practice and patient care. It is working with other disciplines for the good of the patient. It is collaborating to improve nursing practice. 

Allow me to share the following excerpt which I found very enlightening:

The structure is shared governance; the process is professional nursing practice; the outcomes are positive productivity data.1

Is a shared governance structure in place where you work? Have you been involved with implementing shared governance? I'd love to learn more; it sounds like the ideal working environment, but I'm wondering - does it truly exist?

1. Church, J.A., Baker, P., Berry, D.M. (2008). Shared governance: A journey with continual mile markers. Nursing Management, 39 (8).