Practicing Autonomously: A Comparison of Nurses


Address correspondence to: Joan E. Wood, R.N., M.P.H., College of Nursing, Michigan State University, A-230 Life Sciences Building, East Lansing, MI 48824. Telephone: (517) 355-6523.


Forty-five subjects including community health nurses with baccalaureate nursing degrees, senior-level generic nursing students, and registered nurses in a baccalaureate nursing program were compared on age, years of employment in nursing, and three variables of professional autonomy: nurses' rights and responsibilities, the nurse-patient relationship, and nurses' role in health care delivery. It was predicted that nurses from baccalaureate programs and those practicing in community health nursing would perceive themselves as more autonomous and that age and years of employment in nursing would not appreciably alter perceptions of autonomy. An analysis of variance confirmed the initial prediction at the 0.01 level of significance or better for nurses' rights and responsibilities and their role in health care delivery. A significant negative correlation was obtained between age and nurses' rights and responsibilities for the community health nurses; a significant positive correlation was obtained between years of work experience and nurses' rights and responsibilities for only the registered nurses. This study is perceived as an initial step in a lengthy process aimed at identifying factors that influence nurses' perceptions about professional autonomy.