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Keywords:

  • autonomy;
  • concept analysis;
  • nursing education;
  • professional nurse;
  • professionalism

Professional nurse autonomy: concept analysis and application to nursing education

Professional nurse autonomy, an essential attribute of a discipline striving for full professional status, is often confused with personal autonomy, work autonomy or aggregate professional autonomy. Using Walker & Avant’s (1995) model for concept analysis, this paper presents an analysis of professional nurse autonomy. Professional nurse autonomy is defined as belief in the centrality of the client when making responsible discretionary decisions, both independently and interdependently, that reflect advocacy for the client. Critical attributes include caring, affiliative relationships with clients, responsible discretionary decision making, collegial interdependence, and proactive advocacy for clients. Antecedents include educational and personal qualities that promote professional nurse autonomy. Accountability is the primary consequence of professional nurse autonomy. Associated feelings of empowerment link work autonomy and professional autonomy and lead to job satisfaction, commitment to the profession, and the professionalization of nursing. A student-centred, process-orientated curricular design provides an environment for learning professional nurse autonomy. To support the development of professional nurse autonomy, the curriculum must emphasize knowledge development, understanding, and clinical decision making.