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What is required of nurses on unit-level councils?


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The unit council is the core structure for nursing shared governance. Unit-level shared governance provides a critical forum to give all direct-care nurses assigned to a particular unit an opportunity to participate in shared decisional processes and outcomes specific to the needs and activities of that unit.

Although all staff of all levels may participate, unit councils are led and managed by the direct-care professional nurse. Members of the unit council identify, explore, and resolve issues, questions, ideas, and concerns related to professional nursing practice, quality, competency, education, and the work environment. But first, they must ask themselves some difficult questions, such as:

  • What is my role in shared governance?
  • How do I view the nursing environment, nursing leadership, interprofessional partnerships, interdisciplinary teams, the professional practice model, and patient care delivery systems?
  • What do I want to contribute at the unit level? At the department/division level? At the organization level? At the community level?
  • What support is available for the additional time needed to participate equitably in shared governance at the varied levels of responsibility and accountability?
  • What resources and skills do I need to be successful in my professional role on this unit? In this organization?


-- Diana Swihart, PhD, DMin, MSN, CS, RN-BC
(June 2011)