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Contemporary nursing practice and education belong to a dynamic process which is likely to change the structure of nursing, as well as the relationships that have been established with other professions. This paper is concerned with the professionalization of nursing and examines how nurses and doctors maintain, or challenge, patriarchal relationships in a clinical context. It also examines the wider social mate which upholds the subordination of women in the caring environment. The implementation of alternative therapies, emphasis on patient education, rehabilitation and individualized care all contribute to a climate in which nurses are able to develop an area that can be deemed as their own. Furthermore, the achievement of research-based practice, and the implementation of primary nursing in many areas, indicate a collective approach to patient care. By linking these developments with a feminist discourse nurses are able to challenge their position within the sexual division of labour and highlight the ambiguous position they occupy.