• partnership;
  • nurse–client relationship;
  • concept analysis;
  • participation;
  • collaboration;
  • decision-making;
  • empowerment

Background/Rationale.  Current nursing literature that describes the nurse–client relationship as a partnership provides little clarity about the elements and processes of this partnership. This is hardly surprising as conceptual definitions of partnership differ in scope and vary according to the context of the partnership and types of partners.

Aims of the paper.  This paper examines the concept of partnership using Rodgers's (2000) evolutionary approach to concept analysis. The paper describes the antecedents, attributes and consequences of partnership as well as changing socio-political and economic contexts that illuminate how and why nurse–client partnership emerged. Temporal changes in the concept of partnership are also examined.

Findings.  The nurse–client relationship as partnership evolved from a growth in democratic thinking and progress in clarifying how to honour basic human rights in health care relationships. The attributes of partnership include structural and process phenomena. The structure of partnership includes the phases of the relationship, focus and aims of each phase, and roles and responsibilities of the partners. The process of partnership embodies power sharing and negotiation. The main consequence of partnership is client empowerment, which is understood to be the improved ability of the client to act on his/her own behalf.

Conclusions.  The paper concludes with suggestions for further development of the concept of partnership through empirical research.