AIM This paper is a report of a study conducted to test Kanter's organizational empowerment theoretical model specifying the relationships among demographics, structural empowerment, and job satisfaction. BACKGROUND Empowerment has become an increasingly important factor in determining nurses' job satisfaction in current restructured work environments in China. METHODS A correlational, cross-sectional design was used to test Kanter's organizational empowerment model with a sample of 650 full-time nurses employed in six Chinese hospitals in 2007, with a response rate of 92% (n = 598). The instruments used were the Demographic Data Questionnaire, Conditions of Work Effectiveness Questionnaire-II, and Job Satisfaction Scale. RESULTS The three lowest scoring items for Conditions of Work Effectiveness Questionnaire-II were resources, opportunity and informal power. The job satisfaction items revealing most dissatisfaction were workload and compensation, professional promotion, amount of work responsibility, work environments, and organizational policies. A statistically significant positive correlation was found between empowerment and job satisfaction (r = 0.547, P < 0.01). The demographic factors influencing empowerment were work objectives and age. The influencing factors for job satisfaction were work objectives and education level. CONCLUSION The results provide support for Kanter's organizational empowerment theory in the Chinese nurse population. Nurses who view their work environments as empowering are more likely to provide high quality care. Enhancing empowerment in a supportive environment would allow nurses to experience satisfaction with their jobs.