Attributes of a Successful Clinical Ladder Program for Nurses: An Integrative Review

Abigail Moore, Joanne Meucci, Jacqueline McGrath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Clinical ladder programs (CLPs) are often utilized by healthcare organizations to monitor and incentivize staff nurse development. Few studies exist related to this topic, yet implementation of CLPs can be an important factor in staff nurse retention and satisfaction, and therefore requires better understanding. Aim: To identify and examine the factors that contribute to a successful CLP. Methods: A systematic search of the literature was conducted in PubMed and CINAHL. Studies were not limited by year and were included if the focus was CLP attributes. PRISMA and PICOT were used to guide the process. A matrix of the existing studies was used, and interrater reliability was established at 90% with consensus building for inclusion of studies by the research team. Results: Twenty-nine studies were identified for inclusion. Most were program evaluation. Institution's organizational culture was identified as the overarching attribute contributing to a successful CLP. Common themes identified as important to a supportive organizational culture were (a) education and experience; (b) competence and critical thinking; (c) job satisfaction and retention; and (d) compensation and institutional cost. Each of these components can play a significant role in the overall success of a CLP. Linking Evidence to Action: While further research of a higher caliber is needed, some recommendations for practice can be made: (a) CLP description and terminology needs to be consistent with intent, (b) mandatory CLP engagement has positive implications, and (c) implementation needs to be driven by bedside nurses and includes both continuous education and refinement of program requirements and incentives.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-270
Number of pages8
JournalWorldviews on Evidence-Based Nursing
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • career advancement
  • career ladder program
  • clinical ladder program
  • compensation
  • competence
  • job satisfaction
  • organizational culture
  • professional recognition
  • registered nurse(s)
  • retention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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