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Keywords:

  • Autonomy;
  • nurse practitioners;
  • primary care;
  • Dempster Practice Behavior Scale

Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this descriptive study was to determine the level of autonomy of nurse practitioners (NPs) providing care to patients in a primary care setting.

Data sources: Data were collected from 48 primary care NPs (PCNPs) who attended a state clinical conference. The Dempster Practice Behavior Scale (DPBS) was used to measure the autonomy of the NPs.

Conclusions: The total mean score for the DPBS in this study was 127 (SD = 10.25), indicating a very high level of autonomy of the NPs. The Empowerment subscale had the lowest overall mean score, and the Valuation subscale had the highest. There was no statistically significant relationship between level of autonomy and age, years worked as an RN, and years worked as an NP.

Implications for practice: This study provided evidence that PCNPs are highly autonomous professionals and continue to struggle with empowerment. NPs educationally prepared with a better knowledge of legal and political issues will be better suited to influence healthcare reform. NPs, as autonomous professionals, will be more likely to impact and shape future healthcare policy.