Evaluating physical therapists' perception of empowerment using Kanter's theory of structural power in organizations. Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Little is known about physical therapists' perceptions of empowerment. In this study, Kanter's theory of structural power in organizations was used to examine physical therapists' perceptions of empowerment in a large Canadian urban teaching hospital. Kanter's theory, which has been studied extensively in the nursing profession, proposes that power in organizations is derived from access to information, support, resources, opportunity, and proportions. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: A convenience sample of physical therapists who had been working in the hospital longer than 3 months was used to determine the scores for the physical therapists' ratings of empowerment using the Conditions of Work Effectiveness Questionnaire. RESULTS: Physical therapists' scores were similar to reported staff nurses' scores for access to support, information, resources, and opportunity (mean=2.89, 2.91, 2.62, 3.25, respectively). Physical therapists' scores were higher than the majority of reported staff nurses' and nurse managers' scores for access to sources of informal and formal power structures (mean=2.81 and 3.29, respectively). There was a relationship between the empowerment score and the physical therapists' global rating of empowerment. Unlike studies of nurses, there were no relationships when demographic attributes and empowerment scores were examined. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION: Evidence for the validity of Kanter's theory of empowerment was found. Kanter's theory can provide physical therapists and their managers with a useful framework for examining critical organizational factors (access to information, support, opportunity, and resources) that contribute to employees' perceptions of empowerment. A baseline measure for comparing future empowerment scores of this sample is available. Further work to examine the application of Kanter's theory to other samples of physical therapists appears to be warranted.

publication date

  • December 2001