Aim To test an expanded model of empowerment which specifies the relationships between structural, psychological, critical social empowerment and job satisfaction. Background There is evidence that structural empowerment predicts psychological empowerment and these two dimensions of empowerment are independent predictors of job satisfaction. This study explored a third dimension of empowerment critical social empowerment - and its impact on psychological empowerment and job satisfaction. Method A predictive, non-experimental design in a sample of 306 nurses and midwives in Ireland using the Conditions of Work Effectiveness Questionnaire, the Psychological Empowerment Questionnaire, a researcher developed tool to measure critical social empowerment and a job satisfaction questionnaire. Results While both structural and critical social empowerment were significant independent predictors of psychological empowerment and job satisfaction, critical social empowerment was the stronger predictor. Conclusions The findings support the inclusion of the critical social dimension of empowerment in the understanding of empowerment. Implications for nursing management Managers at all levels must attend to critical social empowerment as well as structural empowerment in order to increase job satisfaction, retention and engagement of highly qualified committed nurses and midwives.